Skipper Babar Azam smashed a robust half century and led Zimbabwe’s Pakistani defeat in the first Twenty20 international in Rawalpindi on Saturday. Azam proved yet again why he is one of the best hitters in whiteball cricket with an attractive 55-ball 82 to anchor Pakistan’s chase of a modest 157-run target in 18.5 overs. The win gives Pakistan a 1-0 lead in the series of three matches and a 12th straight win over Zimbabwe in all Twenty20 international cricket. Wesley Madhevere struck a first half century to lead Zimbabwe to 156-6 after winning and hitting the coin toss. Azam, determined to reclaim his place as Twenty20’s best batsman – which he lost to England’s Dawid Malan two months ago – hit nine boundaries and a six in his 80-run stand for the third wicket with Mohammad Hafeez, who made 36 .
Azam was eventually caught in the 17th, as was Hafeez in the 19th, but the goal never got past Pakistan.
Paceman Blessing Muzarabani finished 2-26.
Zimbabwe, which upset Pakistan in its third one-day international at the end of their 2-1 defeat in the previous series, was never able to stop Azam’s free-flowing stroke play, despite firing Fakhar Zaman (19) and Haider Ali (seven) over by the eighth.
Previously, Zimbabwe added 46 in the last five overs with Madhevere in the lead.
Madhevere, the 20-year-old right-handed, failed to hit a 48-ball 70 with nine boundaries and a six to help Zimbabwe hit a respectable total.
Madhevere, who had only four runs in his previous two Twenty20 appearances, added 34 runs for the sixth wicket with Elton Chigumbura, who made a 13-ball 21 with six and two boundaries.
Sean Williams (25) and Brendan Taylor (20) were the other contributors.
For Pakistan, the pacemen Haris Rauf and Wahab Riaz took two wickets each.
Pakistan gave a Twenty20 international debut to 27-year-old spinner Usman Qadir, son of the great Abdul Qadir, who died last year.
The teams will meet again on Sunday and Tuesday at the same location.
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