A Close Finish Bring Pakistan a 2-0 Victory Over Zimbabwe
There was a pitched battle at Lord's but at the Gaddafi Stadium, yearning hearts were won over once again in a thrilling contest. Pakistan beat Zimbabwe by two wickets with two balls to spare, in another last-over finish, to clinch the T20 series 2-0 and, like Friday, the occasion got bigger than the game.
The unheralded batting talent of Bilawal Bhatti came to the fore with Pakistan needing 12 off the final over. He first smote Brian Vitori for a straight six and, after picking up two, carved the bowler through the covers for the winning runs.
Bilawal Bhatti and Immad Wasim held their nerve to guide their side home, Pakistan v Zimbabwe, 2nd T20I, Lahore, May 24, 2015 © Getty Images
Zimbabwe will feel hard done by with the result as they fought tooth and nail with patches of excellent batting and fielding. However, the home side edged the game at the right moments - like the last two overs of the Zimbabwe innings or Shoaib Malik's tight four overs which kept Zimbabwe's score down to 175 for 3. Mukhtar Ahmed's second successive fifty was also important, while the Lahore crowd kept Pakistan, in the game with their noise.
Chasing 176, Pakistan lost their first wicket in the fifth over when Ahmed Shehzad chopped the ball to mid-off for Vusi Sibanda's first of three catches. Shehzad and Mukhtar Ahmed had added 44 runs, but it was nothing like their dominating 142-run stand in the previous game.
Mukhtar, however, continued to bat confidently, finding boundaries regularly even as debutant Nauman Anwar and Shoaib Malik fell to a catch at long-on and a run-out, respectively. Mukhtar hit boundaries through point, third-man and fine-leg in the second over before an onslaught against Graeme Cremer in the eighth over, in which the legspinner conceded 19 runs.
Mukhtar Ahmed blazed away to a second successive half-century in T20s, Pakistan v Zimbabwe, 2nd T20I, Lahore, May 24, 2015
He reached 50 off 33 balls but in the 14th over, holed out to long-on off Sikandar Raza's bowling, with Pakistan needing a further 59 runs off 39 balls.
Shahid Afridi entered with usual fanfare but lasted just three balls before skying Williams for a catch near mid-off. Raza fumbled for a moment but did not let go of the chance.
Zimbabwe kept picking up wickets, even as Pakistan batsmen kept themselves within touching distance of the required run-rate. Umar Akmal was leg-before to Chris Mpofu before Anwar Ali was yorked by Willams in the 17th and 18th overs respectively. Mohammad Rizwan, playing in place of Sarfraz Ahmed, holed out to a great running catch by Raza when Pakistan needed 15 off 11 balls.
Earlier, Zimbabwe started off soundly once again. Hamilton Masakadza and Vusi Sibanda added a second successive 50-plus opening partnership. This time Sibanda started off with a boundary before Masakadza joined in the third over. Masakadza smacked Bhatti for three fours in a row before slamming a straight six in the next over off Mohammad Sami. He took two more fours before falling to Malik's accuracy, having made 39 off 32 balls. This was Zimbabwe's third- highest T20 opening stand, and second-highest in terms of number of balls faced.
Sean Williams, promoted to bat at No 3 for the first time in his T20 career, got into action in the tenth over, finding two boundaries over long-on and midwicket. He kept finding fours and, despite the loss of Sibanda, for 49 in the 17th over, the pace of the innings didn't dither. Williams reached his maiden T20 50 off 26 balls, with a swept six over cow corner.
Sean Williams leans into a drive, Pakistan v Zimbabwe, 2nd T20I, Lahore, May 24, 2015©AFP
Zimbabwe got 50 in the last five overs and the only thrust came from captain Elton Chigumbura, who struck Sami for three sixes in the 18th over: over long-off, extra cover and long-on. It looked like a bigger total than the first game was on the cards but Afridi gave four in the penultimate over and Sami took Chigumbura's wicket at the start of the final over. Zimbabwe did score three runs more than the last game but a bit more connection between bat and ball in the last two overs would have given them a bigger total.
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