ISLAMABAD - Imad Wasim superb spin bowling steered Pakistan to sterling 13-run victory over Zimbabwe in the first Twenty20 International match, to keep their 100-percent winning record intact.
It was Imad, who single-handedly ensured no upset for green caps, as he first batted well and then bowled brilliantly. He was asked to bowl the first over by Shahid Afridi, which he bowled very well and removed Chibhabaha in the very first over. But after bowling such a classic over, instead of continuing with Imad, Afridi, very strangely, opted in favour of Wahab Riaz, who had long not even bowled close to what he had been witnessed during the world cup and he looked rusty and wayward. Had Sohail Tanvir not provided second breakthrough immediately, the things could have been worst for the green caps.
Afridi won the toss and opted to bat first, Pakistan team management very surprisingly gave debut to Imran Khan Junior and opted to rest Hafeez and Irfan. As usual, it was not Zimbabwean exceptional bowling but very poor batting by almost all the Pakistani batsmen, which led to their downfall. Ahmed Shahzad played a very rash stroke and was cleaned up. Instead of holding his wicket, Mukhtar Ahmed followed him in the same over, as Pakistan was left struggling at 2-25 and Sohaib Maqsood didn’t waste much time and returned to pavilion immediately, which left Pakistan reeling at 3-29. Not a single Pakistani batsman was out on extraordinary bowling, it was highly poor shot selection, which caused panic among Pakistani dressing room.
Shoaib Malik batted well before losing his wicket, while attempting to invent a stroke. Umar Akmal looked set to score big runs, but he too was didn’t prolong his stay at the crease. It seemed Pakistani batsmen were in a hurry to go back to the dressing room. May be they were hungry and the meal was fast running out. Instead of promoting himself up the order, Afridi preferred to keep himself down the order. Had he came to bat where Rizwan was sent, he could have taken Pakistan score well pass 150 mark. Shoaib and Rizwan held the innings for a while, which ensured Pakistan post a fighting 136-8 total.
No one but Pakistani batsmen were to blame for pathetic and causal batting. It was by no means even a decent target to chase for the hosts, but Afridi was not in a mood to let the match slip out of his hands, so he tossed up the ball towards Imad. A very strange but turned out to be highly successful decision, as Imad ripped through Zimbabwean batting line up and captured best figures of his short career. He was not only pick of the bowlers but also involved in running out on his direct throw, which changed the complexion of the match. At that time, Zimbabwe was going on with great guns.
Some very strange captaincy decisions were witnessed from Boom Boom, who looked short of confidence. Imran Khan Junior must have realized, bowling and taking wickets at domestic level is different than at international level. It will be very hard for Imran to even think about picking wickets or stopping flow of runs with same slow deliveries and if he wants to be a successful bowler in international cricket, then he must have to introduce variety in his bowling, or else, it will be a very short international career. He lacks that cutting edge and was very nervous right from the start. The team management should have included M Irfan rather than Wahab. It was clearly evident that Afridi had very limited bowling options.
Now the first task of winning the inaugural match is achieved and the team management must not enter second match with same combination. Zimbabwe must blame themselves for the poor result, had they played sensibly, the target was not much difficult to achieve. With world class coach like Dave Whatmore, there is every possibility, Zimbabwe can stage strong comeback in the second and last T20. Instead of taking risks, Pakistan must have two changes must in their rank if they want to ensure 2-0 whitewash on the hosts, as entering the match with same combination can cost green caps dearly.