Lahore, Pakistan: All-rounder Shoaib Malik made a winning return to limited-overs cricket with a blistering century as Pakistan defeated Zimbabwe by 41 runs in their first one-day international on Tuesday.
Malik's 112 off 76 balls helped Pakistan to a challenging total of 375-3, and even an impressive 117 off 95 balls by Zimbabwe captain Elton Chingumbura's wasn't enough as the tourists reached 334-5 — their highest total against Pakistan in 49 ODIs.
Malik, returning to ODIs after two years, combined in a 201-run stand with Haris Sohail, who scored an unbeaten 89 as Pakistan's top order prospered against weak bowling. Mohammad Hafeez (86) and captain Azhar Ali (79) laid a solid platform by putting on 170 runs.
"My (batting) order was at No. 5, but when we got a good start, the coaches told me to go up the order and I performed," Malik said.
Chigumbura led Zimbabwe's run-charge by hitting 10 fours and four sixes in his maiden century before being bowled by Wahab Riaz, who finished with 3-47.
"We did well in the chase but didn't go hard in the last seven overs," Chigumbura said. "It was satisfying to score a hundred but we have to improve our bowling in the remaining two matches."
Zimbabwe's captain featured in two productive stands, adding 124 runs with Hamilton Masakadza (73) for the third wicket and a further 74 runs with Sean Williams (36).
Malik broke the century-stand when he had Masakdaza caught at deep midwicket, after Hammad Azam had missed a sitter for Chigumbura at the same position when the Zimbabwe captain was on 64.
Chigumbura completed his century in his 174th ODI when he slashed Mohammad Sami over point for a six, and then went on to hit two more sixes and a four in the same over before being bowled in the 45th over.
Malik, who had been dropped from ODIs since the 2013 Champions Trophy in England, had earlier hit 12 fours and two sixes before being was caught off the last ball of the innings. Sohail also matched Malik's sparkling performance with six fours and two sixes.
Offspinner Prosper Utseya (2-63) removed both openers off successive deliveries before Malik took charge, scoring his first ODI century since the 2009 Champions Trophy against India at Centurion.
Ali and Hafeez started off cautiously before scoring at will as Zimbabwe bowlers toiled in temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius before a crowd of 20,000 at the Gaddafi Stadium.
Hafeez hit eight fours and two of his four sixes came off successive deliveries when he lofted left-arm spinner Williams over his head before Utseya struck. Ali top-edged a slog sweep and holed out in the deep and the offspinner clean bowled Hafeez round his legs.
Malik and Sohail, who both play for Sialkot in the domestic circuit, then combined in Pakistan's best third-wicket stand against Zimbabwe as they hammered the opposition for 112 runs in the last 10 overs. Former captains Javed Miandad and Aamir Sohail held the previous record when they made 145 at Hobart during the 1992 World Cup.
Masakadza had Malik dropped at point in the last over before making amends off the last ball of the innings at the same position.
Pakistan defeated Zimbabwe 2-0 in the earlier Twenty20 series, which marked the return of international cricket to the country after an attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore killed six police officials and a van driver in 2009.