Don’t underestimate Zimbabwe, they are more experienced than Pakistan
Don’t underestimate your rivals. This is what the Zimbabwe team told Pakistan in the first encounter of the three-match ODI series. Though Pakistan won the first match in a sensational manner, but that was too narrow a win. Another lesson should be learnt the first match that don’t overestimate yourselves in the home series.
Zimbabwe have always been a dark horse and they have even defeated Pakistan team in Pakistan in 1998-99. That Pakistani team was considered to be the best ever combination in the cricket history of Pakistan. Under the captaincy of Amir Sohail, Pakistan have the availability of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Aqib Javed, Inzamam, Ijaz, Saeed Anwer, Muhammad Yousuf and Mushtaq Ahmed. Even then the resilience of dark horse Zimbabwe team not only ensured the victory in Peshawar Test but also sealed the first-ever Test series win in Pakistan.
Pakistan are the only team in the world which always remains in the restructuring phase. After every World Cup major changes are made in the team. Some announce retirements and some are forced to leave. Therefore, once again we are in that forced restructuring phase.
It is most probably the most inexperienced Pakistani side which was played in the ODI played in Rawalpindi. Babar Azam also debuted as the ODI Captain in this match. Interestingly, if we look at the number of matches played by the Pakistani players who participated in the first ODI, one could easily see the inexperience of the team. Fast Bowler Wahab Riaz was the most experienced player of the Pakistani side with 90 ODI matches participation. Second most experienced player is Captain Babar Azam who has appeared in 75 ODI matches till now. The third player who has played more than 50 ODIs for Pakistan is Imad Waseem. He has represented the country in just 54 ODIs.
Pakistan depended on its fast bowling in the first match of the ODI series but they were also not successful in creating any impact against the Zimbabwe Batting line up. Though the bowling figure of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Wahab Riaz are quite impressive, even then they were not able to stop Zimbabwe batsmen to make small partnerships in the middle phase of the match which took them to the last overs of the match with high chances of a win. In the last five overs, Zimbabwe needed 45 runs which was quite an achievable target in this modern cricket era. Pakistani batsmen are striving hard to cement their places in the team. That’s why most of the batsmen played a lot of dot balls to achieve an acknowledgeable score on the board. Imam ul Haq and Abdi Ali gave a very slow start on a batting track. Haris Sohail and Muhammad Rizwan were also not able to keep a good run rate in the middle period of the innings.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe team is comprised of many seasoned players. Four of their players have played more than 100 One Day Matches. Wicket-keeper batsman Brandon Taylor has appeared in 197 ODIs for his country. Williams has represented his country in 134 ODIs and Chibaba has played 105 one day matches. The Zimbabwe player with Pakistani origin, Sikandar Raza has also played 101 ODIs.
Zimbabwe bowling attack is, definitely, weaker than Pakistan as they lack experience and exposure both. But batting is quite competitive and even better than Pakistan if the numbers are concerned. So, the close finish of Rawalpindi Match is not a surprise. Wicket-keeper batsman, Brandon Taylor had almost stolen the match from Pakistan with his impressive knock of 112 off just 117 balls. Pakistan will have to play every match with complete seriousness. Normally, teams don’t perform well in the first match of the away series due to acclimatization issues. In the first match both their bowling and batting have clicked, so a tough series is waiting for Pakistan ahead. Pakistani batsmen will have to perform selflessly according to the situation to seal a victory in the series.