Zimbabwe’s tour of Pakistan, which marked the return of international cricket to the country after a six-year break, has given fans in the region a lot to cheer about in the past week. After winning the two Twenty20 Internationals and the first One-Day International in front of a capacity crowd at the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore, the home side is now gearing up for the second ODI at the same venue on Friday (May 29).
So far, Zimbabwe has not troubled Pakistan as much as it would have liked to. Its bowling has been a bigger concern than its batting, which, thanks to solid consistent knocks from Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza, Sean Williams and Elton Chigumbura, has at least helped the visitors put up a fight.
The bowlers will be concerned that they allowed Pakistan to post a massive 375 for 3 – its highest against Zimbabwe – in the first ODI. Shoaib Malik hit a ton, supported by Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali and Haris Sohail, all of whom scored half-centuries.
The top order has been in great form for Pakistan, with Malik, playing in his first ODI series since 2013, marking his comeback with a 76-ball 112 to register his first ODI century in six years.
Zimbabwe eventually went down by 41 runs on Friday, with Chigumbura, the captain, leading the charge with a 95-ball 117.
But the visiting side will have to go into this do-or-die clash without Chigumbura, who is serving a two-match suspension handed by the International Cricket Council for maintaining a slow over-rate during the first ODI on Tuesday. A loss in this match will put an end to the side’s hopes of winning its first ever ODI series in Pakistan.
Hamilton Masakadza is likely to lead Zimbabwe for the remainder of the three-match series.
Meanwhile, Azhar, the Pakistan captain, has made it clear that the top priority of his side would be to seal the ongoing series and improve its chances of qualifying for the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.
The top seven teams in the world and England, the host nation, will feature in the 50-over contest, which means Pakistan, currently in ninth spot, needs to win the series 3-0 to go up the ladder on the rankings chart.
With the cut-off date for qualification being September 30, 2015, Pakistan will only be left with a five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka in July after this to seal a berth in the tournament.