Pakistan coasted to a six wicket-victory in the second ODI of the three-match series against Zimbabwe at Lahore, to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series. Chasing 269, skipper Azhar Ali led from the front with a hundred, Haris Sohail chipped in with another half-century while Asad Shafiq and Shoaib Malik contributed useful 30s. Earlier, Sikandar Raza cracked a brilliant unbeaten ton for Zimbabwe while Chamu Chibhabha made 99, but the visitors could still only manage what could, at best, be described as a competitive total of 268 for 7.
Pakistan had it all easy in the chase. The pitch was completely benign, and Zimbabwe did not have any pace to trouble the Pakistani batsmen, as has been the case throughout the series. There was a change at the top as Mohammad Hafeez had injured himself in the field, and hence could not open the innings with Ali. Sarfraz Ahmed thus joined him at the top. Both began in confident fashion as Ali kept pushing the ball in the gaps, and turning over the strike, and Ahmed resorted to his favoured sweep. He eventually fell to the same shot trapped lbw by Chibhabha.
Hafeez, batting one down, could not carry on his good form, but, Ali continued untroubled. He never looked in any hurry during his stay at the crease, and every time he felt the need to get fours, he chipped down the track. Having just crossed his fifty, Chibhabha dropped him at short cover. A wicket at that stage could have boosted Zimbabwe’s confidence. Instead, Ali went on to add 86 in the company of Asad Shafiq, who fell for 39, a leading edge off Graeme Creamer’s delivery ending up in short cover’s hands.
Even after Shafiq’s loss, Ali and Haris Sohail continued the good work. Sohail was aggressive, constantly hitting fours over extra cover, and with him scoring quickly, Ali could take it easy as he punched his way towards his second one-day hundred. Ali eventually fell for 109, hitting a square cut straight to backward point. But, Shoaib Malik, buoyed by his hundred in the previous game, took the team home in the company of Sohail. While Sohail remained unbeaten on 52, Malik made a quick 36 from 20.
Earlier in the day, Zimbabwe failed to build a huge total in spite of good knocks from Raza and Chibhabha. The visitors were handicapped by the fact that Vusi Sibanda contributed a painstaking 47-ball 13 in an opening partnership of 83. Even as Chibhabha continued to his boundaries, Yasir Shah’s twin strikes hurt Zimbabwe. Chibhabha himself was dismissed one short of a well-deserved hundred when he was given caught down the leg side off Malik’s bowling. Thankfully for Zimbabwe, Raza found his full range of strokes, and raced to 100 from 84 balls. Against a confident Pakistan, it wasn't enough though.
-- By A Cricket Correspondent