Pakistan edges Zimbabwe by 5 runs in one-dayer
Bulawayo: Pakistan sealed a tense five-run win over Zimbabwe in the first one-day international at Queens Sports Club on Thursday.
Zimbabwe's batsmen failed to negotiate a tight spell of bowling by Pakistan as they reached 242-7 chasing a target of 248 to win.
The 32-year-old debutant seamer Aizaz Cheema took 3-36, including two wickets near the end of the Zimbabwe innings, with spinner Saeed Ajmal and Junaid Khan also tightening the screws on the batsmen.
Cheema removed the in-form Vusi Sibanda on 73, taking a return catch after the ball had hit and injured Sibanda on the knee on its way back to the bowler.
With wickets falling at the other end, captain Brendan Taylor was the key to Zimbabwe's chase, but Cheema struck another blow when he had him caught off a short-pitched delivery by Sohail Tanvir at mid on in the 49th over, for a top score of 84.
With Zimbabwe requiring 12 runs from the last over, Junaid held his nerve to prevent Elton Chigumbura, who was run out, Greg Lamb and Prosper Utseya from helping the host sneak through.
Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher admitted that his team batted too slowly in their chase.
"We only scored 30 runs between the 11th and 20th overs," Butcher said. "We didn't play (offspinner Mohammad) Hafeez well. We probably gave him too much respect. It's always disappointing to lose the way we did. But we must keep fighting and get closer to the perfect game."
Despite Cheema being the pick of the Pakistan attack, Taylor said his team was outdone by the slow bowlers in spin-friendly conditions.
"It was always going to be difficult to face their spin," he said. "We now look forward to Harare where conditions suit us better."
Earlier, Younis Khan (78) and Misbah-ul-Haq (54) hit half-centuries to lay the foundation for Pakistan's 247-7. Zimbabwe's opening bowler Chris Mpofu and spinner Ray Price took two wickets each to stem the run flow on a good batting wicket.
Younis first shared a second-wicket stand of 73 runs with Mohammad Hafeez (26) after Pakistan lost opener Imran Farhat for a duck early, before adding 52 with captain Misbah for the third wicket.
Farhat went early after nicking Mpofu to wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu. Sibanda then took a brilliant low catch at square leg off Utseya to remove Hafeez.
Younis faced 72 balls and smashed nine boundaries, finding the gaps and using the fast outfield to full effect before he was run out by Malcolm Waller's throw to Taibu in the 25th over.