Harare: A commanding century by Mohammad Hafeez and a four-wicket haul from left-arm seamer Junaid Khan led Pakistan to a series-levelling victory over Zimbabwe in the second one-day international on Thursday.
After Hafeez had carried Pakistan to an imposing total of 299 for four with an unbeaten 136, Junaid stubbed out a promising run chase by the Zimbabweans to secure a a 90-run win and set up a series decider on Saturday.
Captain Brendan Taylor led Zimbabwe`s reply from the front with an assured 79, but his dismissal saw the hosts collapse from 200 for four in the 39th over to 209 all out in the 43rd as Junaid finished with figures of 4 for 15.
Taylor had shared partnerships with Hamilton Masakadza, Sean Williams and Malcolm Waller as Zimbabwe laid a platform for what would have been the highest successful run chase at Harare Sports Club, only for Junaid and Saeed Ajmal to snuff it out.
Ajmal induced a top-edge from Taylor that was taken one-handed by seven-foot Pakistan bowler Mohammad Irfan, and in the next over Junaid dismissed both Waller and Elton Chigumbura to end any hopes of victory for Zimbabwe.
Pakistan`s batsmen had struggled in the first ODI on Tuesday, which they lost by seven wickets, leading captain Misbah-ul-Haq to call on them to end a prolonged run of substandard performances in 50-over cricket.
Hafeez answered that call with a superb knock, hitting five sixes but also showing restraint after Pakistan had stuttered to 84 for three in the 22nd over.
The 32-year-old gained control of the innings in a 129-run stand with Umar Amin, who recorded his maiden half-century.
Although the pair added just 66 runs over their first 23 overs together, they cashed in on the batting powerplay when they hammered 43 runs in five overs.
Amin was brilliantly run out by Tendai Chatara soon after, but Hafeez went to his century in the following over and was well supported by Shahid Afridi in the final stages of the innings.
"We were not thinking to score 300 to be honest, we were thinking of about 260, but the two partnerships with Umar Amin and Shahid Afridi really made the difference," said Hafeez.
Afridi clubbed three sixes on his way to 39 not out as Pakistan took 64 runs from the final five overs of the innings, leaving Zimbabwe with a target that proved well beyond them.
"They just ran away from us, and scoring 300 against that attack is always going to be difficult," Taylor said.
"Credit to them - they came back strong, and we`re going to need our best performance on Saturday."