Harare: Pakistan completed a clean sweep of Zimbabwe in all three formats of the game, with a victory in the second Twenty20 in an exciting, last-ball finish in Harare. Zimbabwe's chase - thanks to controlled bowling from Pakistan - did not have any momentum until the last over, when Tatenda Taibu took the attack to the opposition.
With 20 runs required off the final six balls, Taibu smacked the first delivery for a six over long-on to set the tone for a fighting finish. His feisty running ensured a couple off each of the next four deliveries and left him with six more to get off the last ball. Sohail Khan held his nerve and bowled a low, full toss, wide outside off stump. Taibu had backed away to the leg side and was not even able to play a shot. It brought an anti-climatic end to a chase that Zimbabwe allowed to get too big for them, when it should not have.
Vusi Sibanda and Chamu Chibhabha began with the right intent, Sibanda opening the innings with a gorgeously straight drive for four. They scored a boundary off each of the first four overs but did not rotate the strike enough, and the required run rate crept over the rate achieved. Chibhabha tried to break the shackles when Saeed Ajmal came on and looked to loft him over long on, but was caught by a backpedalling Yasir Shah outside the circle.
Ajmal's opening wicket maiden put the brakes on Zimbabwe's chase and they stayed on until the final over. Sibanda frustration grew and he was dismissed by a good Hafeez catch at point while attempting a big hit. Hafeez's Midas touch with both bat and ball was evident and he bowled Cephas Zhuwao with a straight delivery. He also claimed the wickets of Hamilton Maskadza, who gifted him a catch in his follow through, and Brendan Taylor, who was caught by Misbah-ul-Haq at midwicket.
With Zimbabwe's chase unravelling, big-hitting Charles Coventry flung his bat at the first three Junaid Khan deliveries he faced. Two of them went for four and the third he bottom-edged onto his stumps. Elton Chigumbura was able to play a few forceful shots, driving down the ground and pulling with relative ease, but was bogged down by bowling that was simply too good for him to smash out of the ground.
Pakistan's bowlers did not panic, even when it went down to the last over. Taibu had to marshal both Prosper Utseya and himself but in the end, Sohail had the final say.
Zimbabwe put on an improved display in the field, bowled better lengths and took all the catches they were offered to keep Pakistan to under 150. Taylor was innovative with his bowling changes and, after opening with a spinner, introduced Chibhabha in the third over. Chibhabha drew first blood though, when Asad tried to launch a length ball for six but was caught by Elton Chigumbura at long-on.
Two balls later, Rameez Raja was caught at short fine leg. Kyle Jarvis, who bowled better lengths than he did in the previous couple of matches, banged in a short ball and Rameez was late on the pull and gifted Ray Price a simple catch. The hosts inflicted a third early wound on Pakistan when Shoaib Malik was caught behind off Chigumbura, after slashing at wide delivery.
Hafeez rode the tide and played another important innings, targeting the spinners in particular. While he was at the crease, Umar Akmal could afford to be watchful, especially against the Chigumbura, who bowled a controlled spell, dotted with slower balls. Price eventually got Hafeez, who smacked him towards long-on but just did not have enough on it to clear the boundary and was caught on its edge.
His departure resulted in the runs, and more importantly, the boundaries drying up and Pakistan only scored 36 runs in the last five overs. Umar Akmal was run out returning for a second, caught well short of his crease by a Chigumbura throw, and big-hitting Sohail Tanvir was bowled by Kyle Jarvis before he could become dangerous. Jarvis was solid at the death once more and made good use of yorkers, a delivery that he is close to perfecting.