Pakistan 247-7 (Younus Khan 78, Misbah-ul-Haq 54) beat
Zimbabwe 242-7 (Taylor 84, Sibanda 73) by five runs
First One-Day International, Bulawayo
Pakistan were pushed hard before they eventually held on to beat Zimbabwe by five runs in an entertaining first One-Day International in Bulawayo.
Half-centuries from Younus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq steered Pakistan to a score of 247 for seven and it took a sharp performance in the field to prevent them being beaten.
Brendan Taylor made 84 and Vusi Sibanda 73 to get Zimbabwe close before three wickets from Aizaz Cheema saw the home side run out of steam and close on 242 for seven in reply.
Pakistan's innings was built around the experience of Younus (78), Misbah (54) and opener Mohammad Hafeez (26) and it was up to the trio to rebuild the innings following the early departure of Imran Farhat, who was caught behind for a two-ball duck.
Pakistan were well set at 129 for three and then 189 for four to go on and threaten 270 or 280 but Zimbabwe pulled them back, Ray Price taking two for 39 and Elton Chigumbura one for 31 in ten miserly overs as Pakistan's innings faded somewhat towards the end.
Just as Pakistan had lost an opener early, so too did Zimbabwe when Chamu Chibhabha had his stumps splattered by Sohail Tanvir for one but Sibanda played a gem of an innings full of ruthless square-bat shots and some delicious straight driving that brought him six fours and wowo sixes in 89 balls.
Hamilton Maskadza fell for 15 to bring Sibanda and Taylor together and their 61-run partnership put the pressure on Pakistan.
Sibanda fell when he was caught and bowled by Cheema, unluckily injuring himself in the process when he hit the ball into his leg before it bounced up for the bowler and the subsequent dismissals of Tatenda Taibu (26) and Malcolm waller (10) saw the game swing back towards Pakistan.
Taylor hit seven fours and faced 103 balls in all, and with him and Chigumbura at the crease, Zimbabwe needed 22 to win from the final two overs, which Chigumbura began by hitting Cheema for seven runs in three balls before Taylor was caught as he top-edged the debutant to Tanvir.
Chigumbura fought on, but the damage was done and his innings of 24 in 23 balls came to an end when he was run out and it was left to Junaid Khan to close out the agmegame with a smart final over - needing 12 to win, Zimbabwe managed just six runs with both Greg Lamb and Prosper Utseya unbeaten on one.
Cheema's impressive effort returned him figures of three for 36 and by dismissing Sibanda, Taylor and Taibu, he deserved plenty of plaudits during a Pakistan fielding effort that was also mighty impressive, Shoaib Malik taking a fine catch to dismiss Waller and plenty of good work during the closing stages keeping the pressure on the batsmen.
The second game in the three-match series is on 11th September in Harare.
© Cricket World 2011