Pakistan Decimate Zimbabwe

  • 04 Aug - 10 Aug, 2018
  • Sohaib ALvi
  • Sports

I doubt if Pakistan has so dominated a series of any kind with such oomph and panache as they did the one against Zimbabwe where the lowest margin of victory was 131 runs; twice it was over 200 in terms of runs and twice it was by 9 wickets. Pakistan also scored their highest total in ODIs with 399/1 in the 4th game of the five match series.

It can be further weighed when we see that No.6 batted only twice in the five match series and Nos 10 and 11 not even once. And that Zimbabwe’s highest total was 233, the only time they crossed the 200 mark.

Ostensibly the absence of top players was the reason as even a couple of those who featured in the tri series were missing in the five match ODI series either out of injury or voluntarily. The pay dispute cost Zimbabwe dearly. Already languishing among the lowest teams in the ODI rankings they were reduced to playing the reserve eleven. And they were just not good enough against a side ranked in the top half.

The question therefore arises how credibly we should take the performance of the Pakistan side? And how credible is it a harbinger is it for the near future where we play Australia, New Zealand and South Africa?

Yes Fakhar Zaman had a fantastic run of form becoming the first player in the history of the game to score over 500 runs in a 5-match bilateral series and broke his fellow Pakistani’s record for most runs by a Pakistani in a 5 game bilateral series held by Salman Butt, who had scored 451 runs in a five-match series against Bangladesh in 2007-08.

He also went past Zimbabwe’s Hamilton Masakadza’s record of 467 runs (in a 5 match bilateral series) against Kenya in 2009-10. India’s star batsman Virat Kohli has scored 40 more but in a six match bilateral series. Fakhar had scores of 60, 117*, 43*, 210* and 85 at an unbelievable average of 257.50

Batting in his 18th ODI Fakhar also reached a thousand runs in ODIs faster than any other batsman in history, stripping off three games from the previous world record shared by 5 batsmen, including the mighty Sir Viv Richards of West Indies, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott (both England), Quinton de Kock of South Africa and compatriot Babar Azam. They all reached the 1000-run mark in ODIs in their 21st innings.

Fakhar was not to be stopped it seems, as he also eclipsed Mohammad Yousuf. The classic Pakistani middle order batsman had scored 405 runs between two ODI dismissals. Fakhar now has a stupendous 455 runs between two ODI dismissals.

For sure his crowning glory was scoring Pakistan’s first double century in a one day International. It has been done by only four batsmen prior to this since countries first started playing One Day Internationals 47 years ago. All of course are by opening batsmen with India’s Rohit Sharma doing it thrice and others on the list being his countrymen Virendar Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, Windies’ Chris Gayle and New Zealand’s Martin Guptill.

Still it must be considered that except for Gayle who also scored his double century against Zimbabwe (though against a far better attack) the other double centurions have done it against top teams with the bowling sides being Sri Lanka and even Australia and South Africa.

The previous highest for Pakistan was by Saeed Anwar who scored 194 against India at Chennai in 1997. But this is where the comparison is most ridiculous. Saeed scored his runs against a top Indian side who had been semifinalists of the World Cup a year earlier and were playing at home. Among the bowlers was Venkatesh Prasad and Anil Kumble at the height of their careers.

It has indeed been Fakhar Zaman’s year of glory so soon into his career for Pakistan. Earlier he had become the first Pakistani to score 500 T20I runs in a calendar year. In the formative part of his career (he made his debut for Pakistan in 2017) he now boasts of three centuries and six half-centuries in just 18 innings.

Such was his dominance in this series that it overshadowed his opening partner Imam ul Haq who scored three hundreds in the five games. Imam now has four ODI hundreds in nine innings and has converted all his fifty-plus scores into centuries so far! Again the point will come that he did so against an absolutely puerile attack. But it still takes a lot of patience and good technique. One wonders however, why he wasn’t played in the T20 Tri series earlier which featured Australia and Zimbabwe.

In the fourth game of the series he and Imam-ul-Haq smashed their way to world record 304-run partnership. Earlier the record had stood with the Sri Lankan pair of Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga who put up 286 against England at Leeds in 2006. It was also Pakistan’s best for any wicket going past the second wicket stand of 263 runs between Inzamam and Aamir Sohail against New Zealand at Sharjah in 1994. Again a poor comparison as New Zealand had in their bowling attack Larson, Pringle, Nash and Harris.

Overall the two added 705 runs in this series, with four 100-plus stands. No other pair in history has accomplished this. The previous record for most runs in partnership was held by fellow Pakistanis Imran Farhat and Yasir Hameed, who had added 590 in five matches for Pakistan against New Zealand in 2003-04. Again Yasir and Imran Farhat had done so against a superior bowling attack comprising Chris Cairns, Jacob Oram, Chris Harris and Daniel Vettori.

One wonders how much they would have scored individually and collectively had Zimbabwe not batted first on two of the five occasions. There they were dismissed for 194 and even 67. Those who starred in one or more games was Usman Khan, Faheem Ashraf and Shadab Khan. Again the point is raised on the standard of Zimbabwe’s batsmen but then these were batting friendly pitches.

Nevertheless as I had said earlier, this series should not be considered as a yardstick at all. This was a team that was ranked at club level, if not a weekend neighborhood team. Pakistan has many challenges ahead when they come across Australians and New Zealand in the UAE this autumn and the tour of South Africa in the winter. That will be the true litmus test for the opening pair of Fakhar and Imam and for the Pakistani bowling attack. •