Zaman's double hundred makes a mincemeat of Zimbabwe

Let not the threatening regularity of ODI double-hundreds sour it for Fakhar Zaman. In the middle of an unreal purple patch, the 28-year-old rode roughshod over a sorry Zimbabwe in the fourth ODI in Bulawayo on Friday (July 20), going past Saeed Anwar’s monumental 194 against India in the process to deliver a modern cricketing timestamp for Pakistan. And together with Imam-ul-Haq, Zaman helped rack up 304 runs for the first wicket, now the highest opening stand in ODIs, to set up a massive 244-run win in the fourth ODI in Bulawayo.

Having won the toss for the first time in the series, Pakistan’s best ever ODI total of 399 for 1 came as a roaring validation of Sarfraz Ahmed’s decision to bat first. Zaman led the effort with 210 not out off 156 balls, which included a staggering 24 fours and 5 sixes. But it didn’t always start that way. As unbelievable as it sounds in hindsight, Zaman didn’t have strike for the first three overs of the innings. But once he did, taking his good ol’ time to settle with only two boundaries from the first 20 balls he faced, Zaman went into overdrive.

By the time Zaman hit a fifty off 51 balls, he was well past Imam, who just had 37 to show. Together the duo went on to make 304 runs for the first wicket, which alongside being the highest first-wicket stand in ODIs is also the fourth-highest partnership for any wicket in the format.

Zaman’s hundred arrived off 92 balls in the 32nd over, his third ODI hundred flattering to deceive how he now had charts for brains, seeing the ball the best he’s done all day. And the proof arrived a ball later, when he launched Masakadza over cow corner. “Into the trees,” was how Cricbuzz’s ball-by-ball commentary described the shot.

Come the next over, when Zaman scorched three consecutive boundaries off Blessing Muzarabani, Zimbabwe knew that they were a reluctant part of something very special. And so it went on to be, launching a Pakistan batsman for the first time into the elite 200 club, which houses stalwarts like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Chris Gayle and Martin Guptill.

In the middle of this statistician’s pandemonium, Masakadza struck for Zimbabwe in what turned out to be their only success. Imam, after a gorgeous 113 off 122 balls – his third ODI hundred – mistimed a slog to deep midwicket, ushering to the crease Asif Ali, who hit his first ball for a boundary to presage what was to come. An unbeaten fifty off 22 balls followed, which in a way allowed Zaman the luxury to be nervous before a marquee milestone.

Tendai Chisoro was the best bowler for Zimbabwe, conceding just 56 in his 10 overs in an innings where runs were scored at eight per over. But it was always going to a tall chance for Zimbabwe. Chasing a score that was more than three times of what they managed in the third ODI, Zimbabwe were reeling at 67 for 5 in the 19th over to all but lose the match.

Usman Khan again delivered in his first spell, scalping Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, who was the second debuting opener for Zimbabwe in two games, for only 3 and then followed it up with Tarisai Musakanda’s wicket in his next over. But it was Junaid Khan who landed the telling blow. Having conceded two boundaries and two sixes to Hamilton Masakadza, Junaid came back to have the batsman caught at midwicket and all but sealed it for his side.

After Faheem Ashraf and Shadab Khan picked a wicket apiece to cruise through the middle order, a 69-run stand between Elton Chigumbura and Donald Tiripano prospered. But as a run-rate of below four would indicate, the partnership was more about getting Zimbabwe back up on its feet than win the game, that arguably was lost long before the teams took the field in the second innings. Shadab went on to register figures of 4 for 28, wiping the Zimbabwean tail and delivering Pakistan to their second-biggest win in ODIs.

Brief Scores: Pakistan 399/1 in 50 overs (Fakhar Zaman 210*, Imam-ul-Haq 113; Wellington Masakadza 1-78) beat Zimbabwe 155 in 42.4 overs (Donald Tiripano 44; Shadab Khan 4-28) by 244 runs

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