Off-spinner Iftikhar Ahmed’s maiden five-wicket haul earned Pakistan a convincing six-wicket victory over Zimbabwe in the second one-day international on Sunday.
The 30-year-old Ahmed took 5-40 as Zimbabwe was bowled out for 206 in 45 overs after the visitors won the toss and opted to bat.
Pakistan romped to 208-4 with more than 14 overs to spare and took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Captain Babar Azam led the chase with an unbeaten 77 off 74 balls and raised the victory with a straight six off spinner Wesley Madhevere in the 36th over. Imam-ul-Haq missed out on a second successive half century before being dismissed for 49.
Left-arm spinner Tendai Chisoro, who won successful caught behind decisions against Imam through television referral, finished with 2-49.
The last ODI will be played on Tuesday before both teams meet in a three-match Twenty20 series, also at the Pindi Cricket Stadium.
“It was wonderful to see Iftikhar (Ahmed) taking five wickets as we need such a bowler, who can also bat," said Pakistan bowling coach Waqar Younis.
“Iftikhar was included in the team today as the sixth bowler and once other spinner Imad (Wasim) didn't have a good day, it was heartening to see Iftikhar bowling so well."
The left-arm spinner Wasim was expensive with figures of 1-43 off his five overs.
Ahmed, who had only taken one wicket in his previous five ODIs, exposed Zimbabwe’s fragile middle-order after first match century-maker Brendan Taylor was caught at square leg for 36 off 45 balls.
Taylor’s fighting 112 couldn’t prevent Zimbabwe from losing by 26 runs in the first match. And once again when he was dismissed on Sunday in the 26th over, Zimbabwe struggled and lost its last seven wickets for 86 runs.
Taylor seemed to have revived Zimbabwe’s innings with a 61-run fourth-wicket stand with top-scorer Sean Williams (75) and guided his team to 120-3 by the half-way mark before Ahmed struck repeatedly at regular intervals.
Taylor holed out at deep square leg and Madhevere (10) was caught at long on while attempting another expansive shot against the offspinner.
Ahmed pinned down Zimbabwe's batsmen by bowling an unchanged spell of 10 overs after Babar brought him on in the 20th over. He went on to dismiss Sikandar Raza and Tendai Chisoro cheaply before completing his five-wicket haul by having Williams caught at long-on. Williams hit 10 fours and a six in his better than run-a-ball half century.
One of two Pakistan debutants, fast bowler Musa Khan had earlier picked up a wicket off his second ball when Craig Ervine played onto the right-arm fast bowler. Khan wrapped up the innings by clean bowling Carl Mumba to finish with 2-21.
Imam and Abid Ali (22) provided Pakistan a brisk start of 68 off 61 balls and after both openers fell to Chisoro, Babar took charge. The Pakistan skipper hit seven fours and two sixes in his unbeaten knock.
The other debutant, Haider Ali, dropped two sitters by tail-enders late in the Zimbabwe innings that allowed the visitors to cross the 200-run mark.
The three-match ODI series is part of the new World Cup Super League. Seven of the 13 teams in the league will directly qualify for the 2023 Cricket World Cup in India.
Sunday marked Pakistan umpire Aleem Dar’s record-breaking 210th ODI as the 52-year-old surpassed South Africa’s Rudi Koertzen’s record of supervising in most one-day internationals.
Dar also holds the record of umpiring in the most test matches when he officiated in his 132nd test match last year. He has also umpired in 45 Twenty20 internationals, one behind his countryman Ahsan Raza