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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

Zaman and Sarfraz lead Pakistan past Zimbabwe and in to tri-series final

A seven wicket win against a much-improved Zimbabwe sets up a Sunday showdown with Australia

Fakhar Zaman, left, top-scored for Pakistan in the victory over Zimbabwe. Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi / AP Photo
Fakhar Zaman, left, top-scored for Pakistan in the victory over Zimbabwe. Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi / AP Photo

Pakistan knocked Zimbabwe out of the Twenty20 tri-series in Harare in a closely-fought encounter on Wednesday, beating the hosts by seven wickets with five deliveries to spare.

Opener Fakhar Zaman top-scored for Pakistan with 47 before captain Sarfraz Ahmed overcame a spirited Zimbabwean fightback and saw his side home with an unbeaten 38.

Their efforts meant that Zimbabwean allrounder Solomon Mire's earlier innings earlier went in vain.

Mire struck 94, the highest score by a Zimbabwean in T20 internationals, but Zimbabwe's 162-4 was not enough to overcome the world's top-ranked T20 side.

"We have a very deep batting line-up, so we were confident we could chase it," Zaman said.

Pakistan were given a rapid start by Zaman and fellow opener Haris Sohail.

Sohail holed out soon afterwards, but Zaman, mixing aggression with an ability to manoeuvre the ball around the field, he cracked four fours and a six.

"In the start in T20 I was hitting every ball in my striking zone, but after playing eight to 10 games I sat with some senior players like Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed, and spoke about my gameplans with them," Zaman said.

"I realised that I could play proper cricket shots and be successful, and that's what I've been doing recently."

He may have learnt even more from Sarfraz's innings of calm precision that kept Pakistan up with an asking rate that hovered around eight for much of the match.

Executing his attacking strokes perfectly, Sarfraz found the gaps and the boundaries whenever they were needed.

Where Ahmed's innings was one of finesse, Mire's 63-ball 94 for Zimbabwe showcased big-hitting ability.

Mire started slowly, but hit his first six into the stands beyond long leg to move into the 20s and was soon smashing Pakistan's attack to all corners of the ground.

Mire's fourth six took him to a 32-ball half century, his first in this format.

He collected a fifth six with a huge strike down the ground, and then lifted fast bowler Mohammad Amir for the biggest hit of the day, over the roof of the three storey stand beyond midwicket.

He eventually fell for 94, but his 64-run third wicket stand with Tarisai Musakanda boosted Zimbabwe to a respectable total after two poor outings in this tournament.

"We were expecting 130 to 140 on this pitch, but Mire played a very good innings," said Zaman.

It was not enough to beat Pakistan, however, who are now assured a place in Sunday's final against Australia.