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Zimbabwe vs Pakistan 3rd T20I Preview: Sloppy Pakistan present Zimbabwe golden opportunity to pocket series

Zimbabwe v Pakistan 2021
Zimbabwe v Pakistan 2021
©Zim Cricket
Harare Sports Club
Harare Sports Club
©Zim Cricket

Pakistan's middle-order has been a point of concern for a long time now.

Live Scores and Stats - Zimbabwe v Pakistan 3rd T20I

Pakistan's flaky middle-order

Even in South Africa, whenever put under pressure, the Pakistan middle-order failed to deliver. It was courtesy of their firing top order, particularly Mohammad Rizwan, Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman and their bowling that did not allow the collapses to peg them back, with Pakistan winning both the ODI and T20I series against South Africa.

Even in the series opener against Zimbabwe, the batsmen somewhat let them down, managing just 149 runs from their 20 overs. It was the Pakistan bowlers who pulled the match back, with Mohammad Hasnain Usman Qadir sharing 5 wickets between them while being economical.

The bowling doing fine

It was the Pakistan bowlers again who put them in a winning situation, restricting Zimbabwe to just 118 in the second T20I. Tinashe Kamunhukamwe was Zimbabwe's top scorer with 34 from 40 balls. Other that him, no Zimbabwe batsman could even reach 20.

Mohammad Hasnain was the top bowler for Pakistan and took 2 wickets from his 4 overs while going at an economy of 4.80. With the exception of Danish Aziz, all the bowlers were economical. Arshad Iqbal impressed on debut with figures of 4-0-16-1.

Babar dismissed, cue collapse

The surface being low and slow made even 118 a sizeable target, but it still wasn't considered big enough to pose a threat to the Pakistan batting lineup. However, once wickets began to fell in heaps, there was no stopping the tide.

Only Babar Azam inspired some confidence with a 41-ball 45. Once the Pakistan skipper was dismissed in the 16th over with the score at 78/4, the Pakistan middle order fell like a pack of card.

Danish Aziz spent some time at the crease but, like other batsmen, was not able to get on with it, ultimately getting run out for 22 off 24 deliveries. Mohammad Hafeez and Asif Ali failed once again as Pakistan were bundled out for just 99.

Luke Jongwe was the most impressive bowler for Zimbabwe with 4 wickets from 3.5 overs and an economy rate of 4.70. Leg spinner Ryan Burl also picked up two wickets at an economy of 5.20.

Azam pulls up batsmen

Pakistan captain Babar Azam called the defeat 'very painful' in the post-match presentation.

"It's a very painful performance," Azam said. "In South Africa, we had chased down 200; similarly here, we should have won this game comfortably. But unfortunately, we played poor cricket and continued to struggle in the middle order. Today, it was not just the middle order but our batsmen right through couldn't perform the way we expect them to. It was a collective collapse and we lost as a group. But credit to Zimbabwe who came back so strongly today."

"The wicket was similar to the other day but it was suitable [for batters] and that is not an excuse anyway. As a professional, you adapt to every condition but I think we as openers didn't give a good start from the top and then our middle order was struggling to step up. The World T20 is closing in and we have to sort this out as soon as possible. The next game we will come back and make a good combination."

Sarfaraz Ahmed to get the nod?

The wickets in Zimbabwe are low and slow which is a stark difference, particularly now that Pakistan are coming from a tour of South Africa. But, that is no excuse for a professional side, like Babar Azam pointed out in the post-match presentation.

Pakistan are likely to bring in former captain Sarfaraz Ahmad in place of Asif Ali to infuse some quality in the middle order. Zimbabwe will be wary of a strong come back from Pakistan but, in their own conditions, they won't get a better opportunity to win their first-ever T20 series against Pakistan.

Let's have a look at the probable playing XIs:

- Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, Wesley Madhevere, Brendan Taylor (c), Tarisai Musakanda, Tadiwanashe Marumani, Ryan Burl, Regis Chakabva (wk), Luke Jongwe, Wellington Masakadza, Blessing Muzarabani, Richard Ngarava 

Pakistan - Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Babar Azam (c), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Danish Aziz, Faheem Ashraf, Arshad Iqbal/Mohammad Nawaz, Usman Qadir, Mohammad Hasnain, Haris Rauf

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