By Ayyaz Malik
After much hype off the pitch in regards to their match against Zimbabwe, Pakistan did their talking on the pitch with a five wicket win over the African side. The 1992 world champions who have been playing at neutral venues since 2009 host Zimbabwe for a T20 Series and one day series.
Fast forward six years and now Zimbabwe have become the first side ICC ranked side to play in Pakistan. With this match cricket was always going to be an after thought, especially with how intense security was . Lahore’s Gaddafi stadium where all matches will be played was host to this historic match which as we know is the first full international on Pakistani soil for six years.
Thankfully for the cricketing world this match passed with no problems off the field. As for the match itself, it was a match to remember as this game went right down to the wire. Pakistan who have been T20 world champions in the past included some new faces such as Mukhtar Ahmed.
More experienced faces were also included such as Shoaib Malik and Mohammed Sami who both were recalled after being in the international wilderness.
Zimbabwe also made a few changes, most notably Brendan Taylor who has registered himself as a Kolpak player with Nottinghamshire.
It was the visitors who won the toss and they elected to bat first. The Zimbabwean’s got off to a good start as Hamilton Maskadaza and Vusimuzi Sibanda put on 58 for the first wicket – but when Sibanda was first out, a collapse looked to be on the cards as Maskadaza was dismissed straight after.
The African side were in need of looking to stabilise the innings – but two more wickets fell as Zimbabwe were 100-4. In sport when your team is in a crisis or your team is in difficulty you want some one to stand up when it really counts. Thankfully for the Zimbabwean’s it was their captain Elton Chigumbura. Chigumbura’s 35 ball 54 which included 8 fours and a six helped the visitors set 173 for Pakistan to win their first match back in Pakistan.
The hosts who were looking to start this new cricketing era with a win, couldn’t have got off to a better start. Openers Mukhtar Ahmed and Ahmed Shehzhad went about their business in brutal fashion.
Ahmed who in only his second appearance blasted 83 off just 45 balls which included 12 fours and three sixes. The Pakistani opener was very well supported by his opening partner Ahmed Shehzhad who in comparison made an almost laboured 55 off 39 balls.
How ever you looked at it one thing was for certain – and that was Pakistan’s opening pair were very dominant against the Zimbabwe attack, as the openers looked to swiftly wrap up victory for their team.
Unfortunately for Pakistan with the winning line in sight they choked. After both openers played so well to get their side into such a position, both fell in quick succession,.
At that point Pakistan were still just about in control – but when Mohammed Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal fell cheaply the home side must have been fearing the worst. Thankfully for Pakistan they can call on their captain Shahid ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi – and it was he who helped Pakistan to victory by five wickets after hitting the third to last ball for four. How’s that for drama?
History will say Pakistan won by five wickets with three balls to spare – but this match was much more that. This is the match that Pakistan will be hoping that will be the springboard for other countries to tour the region. The next match will be on Sunday 24 May.