HARARE: Pakistan’s opener Fakhar Zaman blazed his way to a career-best 73 as his side completed a clinical 45-run victory over Australia on Thursday in the Twenty20 tri-series in Zimbabwe.
Pakistan batted first, with Zaman’s knock helping his side race to 194-7.
Then left-arm seamer Shaheen Afridi starred with three wickets as Pakistan’s bowlers held Australia to 149-7 in a match which was effectively a dress rehearsal for Sunday’s final.
Pakistan lost Haris Sohail for a golden duck after being put in to bat on a chilly midwinter morning in Harare, but Zaman and Hussain Talat wrested back control back with a rapid 72-run stand.
Talat cracked three fours and a six before playing one shot too many to be bowled by Glenn Maxwell’s offspin.
Zaman continued to middle his aggressive strokes and went to a 33-ball 50, his third for Pakistan in this format, with a slog sweep for six, while another big hit off Andrew Tye’s seamers took the batsman past his previous best of 61.
An edged four took Pakistan beyond 130, and Zaman into the 70s, in the 15th over, but he pulled the next ball he faced straight to Maxwell on the edge of the circle at midwicket.
The quick dismissal of captain Sarfraz Ahmed, edging a Tye legcutter into the hands of wicketkeeper Alex Carey, put a further dent in Pakistan’s batting, but the experienced Shoaib Malik ensured that the runs kept flowing.
He hit 15 off the 17th over, bowled by Marcus Stoinis, boosting Pakistan beyond 150. After he fell, Asif Ali struck three fours and two sixes in an unbeaten 37 to keep the pressure on Australia right to the end of the innings.
Pakistan kept up the pressure with the ball, with Afridi taking the vital early wicket of Aaron Finch when the Australian captain had made just 16.
Bowling from the Golf Course End, Afridi swung and seamed the ball prodigiously to trouble the batsmen. He trapped Glenn Maxwell lbw, and then rattled D’Arcy Short’s stumps as Australia slipped to 75 for 5.
Their chase never recovered from the early losses, with the rest of Pakistan’s attack chipping in with wickets in a much-improved performance.
Razzaq all-praise of Afridi
Young Pakistan pacer Afridi, playing only his second international match, attracted everyone’s attention, especially former all-rounder Abdul Razzaq’s, who praised the left-armer’s ability.
“He has been traveling with the team since the last three series and was not given a chance. But today he showed what he is capable of,” Razzaq said while talking to The Express Tribune.
“He has just turned 18 and his performance is comparable to experienced bowlers. His physique is good which doesn’t let the batsmen take him lightly. He is skilful and sharp,” Razzaq added.
Razzaq said Afridi is a clever bowler as he helped the team execute their plans well. “He did as demanded by the captain. He dismissed Pakistan team’s biggest fear — Finch — that was the time when Pakistan won the match. Finch is the only player that could have troubled Pakistan,” he said.
Pakistani batsmen arrived to the occasion pretty well to set a 195-run target for the Aussies and Razzaq was happy to see that. “Pakistan faced trouble with bouncers in the last match against Australia, but in this match it seemed like they worked on that and faced the bouncers well, especially Zaman played brilliantly as he always does. He doesn’t let the team down,” said Razzaq.
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