With Mohammad Sami and Anwar Ali struggling with the ball, Pakistan will be thankful their batsmen posted the total they did. This was the first time their top four all scored at least 50, and the first Pakistan innings to feature two 150-run stands. Malik’s 112 off 76 was his fastest century. Pakistan hit 35 fours and 10 sixes in all, but that masked the lack of frenetic hitting and powerful strokes you associate such big scores with.
Azhar and Hafeez were Pakistan’s fourth different opening combination in their last five ODIs, and the tentativeness showed in their start of eight runs in five overs on a pitch that never misbehaved. In the sixth over, though, Azhar, the captain playing his first international at home, took the first risk, playing across the line of a ball outside off, placing it wide of mid-on for three. Azhar was off after that shot, racing away to 21 off 24 with Hafeez labouring to five off the same number of deliveries.
Hafeez didn’t take too long before getting a move on himself, playing pick-up shots for four and six off Tinashe Panyangara in the ninth over. Zimbabwe’s attack didn’t have the necessary threat to hold the openers back. Azhar reached his 50 first, but Hafeez followed him soon and when he hit the remodelled Prosper Utseya -- now bowling little legrollers -- for successive fours in the 22nd over, Pakistan’s run rate had crossed six an over never to come back down again. These two shots summed up the touch play this partnership relied on: first a mere push between mid-off and extra cover, and then waiting for the expected flatter delivery and back-cutting it between point and short third man.
Utseya managed to get both the openers out. Forty-one came off the Powerplay, and at 263 for 2 in 40 overs Pakistan were set to break the Lahore record of 357, what with 10 an over in the last 10 almost the norm in modern ODI cricket. Except that Pakistan are one of the teams that usually buck the trend. Not here. In Malik and Sohail they had right amount of placement and power, in Zimbabwe they had a flat attack, and the two carried the party on. Clean hits cleared the fence, mis-hits fell to ground, Zimbabwe missed quite a few yorkers, the fielding went flat, and 112 came off the last 10. In the 49th over Malik raised the first international century in Pakistan in six years. Sohail, who relied on some power hitting over the leg side in his 89 off 66, ran out of time, but time was a bigger problem for Zimbabwe who were about 40 minutes behind schedule in finishing their 50 overs.
They didn’t show much more urgency in the chase, looking for the most part content with batting out the 50 overs of their own. Chigumbura and Masakadza added 124 for the third wicket, but they did so in 20 overs, which meant the asking rate had reached 14.5 for the last 17 overs. Chigumbura, who survived a plumb lbw shout and benefitted from two dropped catches, brought brief interest to the chase, racing away to his first ODI century, in the process hitting Sami for a hat-trick of fours and then for 22 in another over. Riaz, though, proved too good for him, troubling him with bouncers before cleaning him up with a quick Yorker, also ending the game in the process. -- Cricinfo.