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Babar Azam 82 seals comfortable six-wicket win for Pakistan
Match Report

Babar Azam 82 seals comfortable six-wicket win for Pakistan

Babar Azam's sublime half-century set up a comprehensive victory for Pakistan in the opening T20I against Zimbabwe as the home side comfortably chased down the modest 157-run target with an over and one ball to spare.

Zimbabwe had done well to reach 156-6 courtesy a stunning effort from batting sensation Wesley Madhevere but Babar crafted a tremendous innings to marshall a trouble-free chase.

Babar's glorious stay at the crease further cemented his reputation of being a top-tier batsman in the shortest format as his match-winning tally of 82 runs took him past KL Rahul to become the leading run-getter in T20s this year.

The Pakistan captain combined elegant strokeplay with active running between the wickets to deprive Zimbabwe of the opportunity to build pressure on the opposition.

Fakhar Zaman launched a flurry of drives in his brief cameo to get Pakistan off to a rapid start before Babar and Mohammad Hafeez drove the advantage beyond Zimbabwe's grasp by stitching an 80-run partnership for the third wicket.

Fakhar was dismissed by the last ODI protagonist Blessing Muzarabani while aiming for a massive slog. Muzarabani added another wicket in his neat display of pace bowling while the rest of the Zimbabwe bowlers were rendered toothless in the face of Babar's immaculate shots.

Babar got out in the fag-end of the innings when an uncontrolled aerial shot off the bowling of Tendai Chatara landed in the hands of Madhevere.

He maintained a healthy strike rate in his regal knock, smashing nine fours and a solitary maximum across 55 deliveries.

The winning run was produced in rather anticlimatic fashion as Khushdil Shah and Mohammad Rizwan hurried down the pitch after the ball hit the latter's pad.

Earlier in the day, the feisty pace duo of Mohammad Hasnain and Haris Rauf caused damage in the Powerplay by removing Chamu Chibhabha and Brendan Taylor for cheap contributions.

Zimbabwe managed to avoid an extended wobble as Sean Williams and Madhevere steadied the innings. But Williams departed soon after debutant Usman Qadir was introduced into the attack.

Qadir's maiden outing in international cricket saw him take one wicket in three overs and concede 24 runs, making a strong comeback following an expensive first over.

Madhevere, however, continued to battle Pakistan's bowlers with his dynamic range of strokes and fearless attitude. He failed to find support on the other end right until the death overs when Elton Chigumbura unleashed a couple of lusty blows to take the team past the 150-run mark.

Rauf was the pick of the bowlers for Pakistan as he cleaned up Ryan Burl towards the end to pick up his second wicket and gave away just 25 runs in his spunky four-over spell.

In less than 24 hours, the two teams will clash again for the second T20I of the three-match series in Rawalpindi.