Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
DEBUTANT Tarisai Musakanda was probably the only positive for Zimbabwe yesterday as the Chevrons got off to a poor start in the cricket T20I Triangular Series with a 74-run defeat to Pakistan at the Harare Sports Club. The 23-year-old, who is one of the crop of upcoming cricketers developed through the Zimbabwe Cricket system, yesterday laboured in vain as his 43-run knock found no one to complement, chasing Pakistan’s 182-4.
In the end, everything went according to the script as depleted Zimbabwe were bowled out for 108 runs in 17.5 overs by the world number one-ranked team.
The loss also came at a huge price after one of Zimbabwe’s brightest prospects Kyle Jarvis pulled out of the game early with a thumb injury that looked severe following a fielding mishap.
Jarvis was taken to hospital for scans with a suspected fracture or dislocation of the thumb bones and is now a huge doubt for the rest of series which also involves Australia.
Zimbabwe wanted to maximise on the morning conditions and when Hamilton Masakadza, who was confirmed captain at the weekend to replace Graeme Cremer, won the toss, he made the call to field first.
The decision seemed to pay dividends earlier on when Pakistan lost Mohammad Hafeez (7) in the second over off the bowling of Jarvis with 13 runs on board.
Hussein Talat (10) was next in the seventh over, followed by skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (10) as the tourists were three wickets down at the end of the 10th over with 78 runs in the bag.
Despite the setbacks, the scorecard still looked healthy at that stage given the calibre of players in their team. The visitors had defied the tricky batting conditions in the morning and manoeuvred their way to a highly competitive total, thanks to opener Fakhar Zaman’s half ton and a strong fifth wicket partnership between Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali which plundered 62 runs unbeaten from the last five overs of the innings.
Zaman was the highest scorer with three fours and three sixes on his way to 61 runs from the 40 deliveries he faced before being bowled out by Tendai Chisoro.
He was the last wicket to go for Pakistan, who were sitting pretty on 120/4 after 14.4 overs, to leave Ali and Malik to finish the job.
Ali contributed 41 runs from 21 balls that included four sixes and a boundary in an unbeaten partnership with Malik to put the total beyond Zimbabwe’s capacity.
Malik weighed in with 37 runs. The knock also saw him hitting a milestone 2 000 career runs in T20I, becoming only the third man in history to do so after Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum of New Zealand.
Musakanda said the difference in experience was a huge factor. Zimbabwe, who are missing some of their key players like Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams, Cremer and Sikandar Raza for the series, were found wanting in many areas.
Their chase was always going to be difficult against the quality bowling line-up of the Pakistanis after losing opener Chamu Chibhabha for a duck at the onset through Mohammad Nawaz lbw.
Skipper Masakadza also fell for a single digit score (7).
Efforts by Solomon Mire (27) and Musakanda to bring the hosts back to their feet were thwarted when Nawaz claimed the former for his second wicket of the match.
Elton Chigumbura (14), who is returning to international cricket after two years in the sidelines, was the only other Zimbabwean batsman to score a double digit figure before his off-stump was uprooted by Hasan Ali slower ball after he had hit the bowler for a six and a four the previous two deliveries.
Musakanda said the Pakistanis used their experience to come out tops on a difficult batting patch.
“Their bowlers are quite experienced bowlers. Most of them have played in the Pakistan Super League and so many other leagues. So it could be both.
“But these are the guys that I have played before. The likes of Fakhar Zaman and Shadab Khan; we played them two years ago in Mutare and Bulawayo. So there wasn’t much of nerves but the intensity was good.
“To be honest there was a batting plan but it just didn’t go our way. Maybe that’s the nature of sport; at times your game-plan just doesn’t work. But we just have to quickly learn, especially us batters, and get a Plan B,” said Musakanda.
Pakistan bowlers Nawaz, Hasan Ali, Usman Khan and Hafeez took two wickets each. Nawaz, who had figures of 2/11 said they are looking ahead to their game against Australia today.
Both teams are fighting for a place at the top of the ICC T20I rankings. Pakistan have been on top for some months now while Australia, who are coming from a disappointing tour of England, slipped one place into third place last week.
However, the Baggy Greens could reclaim the top spot if they finish the series unbeaten, beginning with their opening match today. But they should not expect an easy game from the Pakistanis who are keen to maintain the status quo.
“To be honest we don’t have any pressure to maintain our position but we know that we have to play good cricket and we are capable of doing that,” said Nawaz.