Playing in only his second ODI, Bilal Asif ran through the Zimbabwe batting with five wickets, as the hosts crumbled to 161 not out after a bright start. Asif then opened the batting, and contributed a quick 38 as Pakistan’s chase got underway in confident fashion. Man of the series Shoaib Malik, Asad Shafiq and Ahmed Shehzad then all contributed 30s as Pakistan eased to win 34 overs, and claimed the three-match series 2-1.
Put into bat in the decider, Zimbabwe were off to a confident start, thanks to their openers who added 89 for the opening wicket. However, if their start was assured, their collapse was much more spectacular. Zimbabwe lost 10 wickets for 72 once the opening stand was broken. Off-spinner Bilal Asif, who made a mediocre debut in the last match, was superstar of the show for Pakistan. After 10 action-packed overs, which he bowled without a break, Asif finished with memorable figures of 5 for 25. Imad Wasim continued his good form in the series with three scalps as Pakistan once again asserted their spin dominance over the hosts.
Zimbabwe openers began slowly, but to their credit they did not throw away their wickets, something which they were to do in abundance later in the innings. Both Chamu Chibhabha and Richmond Mutumbami rotated the strike over apart from hitting the occasional boundary. Although the run-rate wasn't great a decent platform was being set. All that changed once Asif got Chibhabha. Two short of a fifty, the opener closed the face of the bat too early on a slower delivery, only managing to chip a return catch to the gleeful bowler. It opened their floodgates as Wasim soon trapped Brian Chari lbw with the batsman staying on the back foot.
Asif was all over the Zimbabwe batsman once the second wicket fell. The dangerous but struggling Sean Williams gave a simple caught and bowled to Asif, confused about how to deal with the bowler. With Hamilton Masakadza dropped, there was further pressure on skipper Elton Chigumbura, and he could not deliver. He edged Asif on to the stumps, and was back in the hut for a duck. There were expectations from Sikandar Raza considering his talent, but he also fell to Asif, clean bowled going for sweep. Asif completed his well-deserved five-for as Tinotenda Mutombodzi was clean bowling going for a cut against a ball that kept low and turned.
From 89 for no loss, Zimbabwe had crumbled to 127 for 6, and there was no respite in store. Mutumbami's fighting knock came to an end for 67 after he mistimed a short ball from Mohammad Irfan. The opener had been shaken badly by a bouncer from a same bowler, and the struggle resonated in the manner that he was dismissed. Wasim then came back and had the struggling Malcolm Waller caught at midwicket by Mohammad Hafeez. He then trapped Tinashe Panyangara right in front of the stumps. Shoaib Malik chipped in by claiming last wicket as Zimbabwe finished on an underwhelming 161.
--By A Cricket Correspondent