One of the stars of the superb batting performance was Babar Azam who remained unbeaten on 106. The 23-year-old has only recently made his return from the elbow injury he sustained during Pakistan’s tour of England in May this year.
Here, we take a closer look at the right-hander’s stellar unbeaten knock.
Babar Azam walked into the crease after Pakistan openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq had laid another solid platform. The batsman kept the runs ticking in characteristic fashion with some excellent placement and good running between the wickets. Once he went past his half-century, Babar took the attack to the Zimbabwe bowlers as he sped his way to a 72-ball ton which is his eighth overall in ODI cricket. He remained unbeaten till the end to lead Pakistan’s march in the death overs.
Fastest to EIGHT ODI Hundreds:— Saad 🇵🇰 (@ImSaadAwais22) July 22, 2018
43 Innings - Hashim Amla 🇿🇦
44 Innings - Babar Azam 🇵🇰
52 Innings - Quinton de Kock 🇿🇦
57 Innings - Shikhar Dhawan 🇮🇳
Babar Azam scored last 50 Runs off just 17 Balls.
Champion Knock from a Champion Batsman #PAKvZIM #ZIMvPAK pic.twitter.com/CA1dNlcN5L
If Virat Kohli is the perfect example of how to construct an ODI innings, Babar is not far behind. Not one to turn to the expansive strokes straight away, the Pakistan man relied more on his placement and excellent timing at the start of his innings. His first half-century of the series arrived in 55 balls and just 17 balls later, he was raising his bat for his century celebration. He accelerated at just the right time as boundaries flowed in the death overs. He made boundary-hitting look effortless in the second-half of his innings.
There is hardly anything to fault in Babar’s innings on Sunday. The only minor criticism that can be aimed at his innings is that he could have been more adventurous at the start given the platform that had already been set. However, the flourish at the end of his innings where he went from 50 to 100 in just 17 balls makes that point moot.
Eighth ODI hundred for Babar Azam!— Cricbuzz (@cricbuzz) July 22, 2018
First 57 balls - 53 runs
Next 16 balls - 51 runs #ZIMvPAK
VERDICT – 9/10
Like a master craftsman, Babar knows who to construct a batting masterpiece. Few in world cricket have the knack of making run-scoring look so easy without relying on the big hits. Only Kohli and Joe Root can lay claim to similar abilities. Babar’s century on Sunday is just the latest in a string of fine ODI innings he has played since making his debut. It was his first big knock since return from injury and will do his personal confidence a world of good.
Sarfraz Ahmed‘s men crossed the 350-run mark for the second time in succession after electing to bat first as they set the hosts a mammoth target of 365. That proved to be too much for the Zimbabweans who could only muster 233-4 in their 50 overs.
Here, we look at the key takeaways from another excellent day at the office for Pakistan.
ANOTHER RECORD-BREAKING DAY FOR FAKHAR ZAMAN
There were a multitude of records broken by the Fakhar Zaman and Pakistan during his 210-run innings in the fourth ODI and that trend continued on Sunday.
There would be no century for Fakhar this time after he was dismissed for 85 by Liam Roche but not before he had written himself into the record books.
The left-hander’s dismissal came after he had been unbeaten for 515 runs in the series, beating Mohammad Yousuf’s record of 405 runs set in 2002.
It is the first time in ODI history that a batsman has managed to score more than 500 runs in a five-match bilateral series. Only Virat Kohli’s 558 runs (in six matches) against South Africa earlier this year is better overall.
Fakhar also went past the 1,000-run mark in ODIs during the course of his innings and has become the fastest man to the milestone in doing so. The 18 innings taken by him to reach the mark broke the record previously held by the likes of Sir Viv Richards and Babar Azam (21 innings).
IMAM-UL-HAQ REGISTERS THIRD TON OF THE SERIES
While Fakhar’s batting exploits have been the talk of the series and rightly so, it is easy to forget that his opening partner has had a stellar time as well.
The 22-year-old carried on from where he left off in the fourth ODI as he once again took on the role of the initial aggressor. Ul-Haq has made a knack of converting his half-centuries into hundreds in his short career so far and he lived up to that reputation as he brought up his fourth ODI century and second in succession in just 97 balls.
It was Imam’s third ton of the series and fourth overall in just nine ODI innings. He is now the first batsman in history to bring up four centuries in his first 10 matches. The youngster has now managed to convert all his half-centuries into tons.
The 600-run plus opening partnerships that Imam and Fakhar have put together over the course of the series is also a new record for ODI cricket.
BABAR AZAM COMES TO THE PARTY
Babar Azam had not really had an opportunity to put on a big score in the series prior to Sunday. The right-hander has only recently returned from an injury layoff but he was back to his fluent best as he notched up his eighth ODI ton in just 72 balls.
The 23-year-old made the utmost of the perfect platform laid out for him by Imam and Fakhar in an innings of two halves.
In the first half of his innings, Babar kept the runs ticking as he brought up his half-century off 55 deliveries. He then quickly changed gears in the death overs as his next 50 runs came off just 17 deliveries. It was a perfectly constructed innings and ensured that Pakistan crossed the 350-run mark for the second time in succession.
ZIMBABWE SHOW FIGHT BUT IT IS NOT ENOUGH
The series has been one of the most one-sided affairs in recent times with the severely depleted hosts suffering four crushing losses prior to Sunday. They did manage to put in perhaps their best showing of the series so far in the final ODI but even that wasn’t enough to avert another thumping loss.
The hosts were probably already out of the game once Pakistan put on 364 but they can take comfort from a much- improved batting performance. Skipper Hamilton Masakadza and Tinashe Kamunhukamwe put on a 66-run stand for the first wicket before Ryan Murray and Prince Masvaure added another 78 runs for the third wicket.
Attaining the target of 365 seemed to be the last thing on the mind for the hosts as they instead sought to play out the full 50 overs after their recent batting collapses.
Sarfraz Ahmed‘s men lead the series 4-0 after four crushing wins and will be looking to inflict a whitewash over the much depleted hosts. Hamilton Masakadza’s men on the other hand, will be aiming to avert that humiliation as they look to end the series on a high. The Pakistan skipper won the toss at the Queen’s Sports Club and has elected to bat first. Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali and Mohammad Nazaw have returned to the visitors’ line-up with Usman Khan and Yasir Shah missing out.
Pakistan openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq have made a solid and watchful start with the former going past the 1, 000-run mark in ODI cricket. The 18 innings taken by Fakhar to reach the milestone is the fastest in history and has bettered the 21-innings record set by Sir Viv Richards and Babar Azam among others. The opening pair added 168 runs between themselves in 25 overs before Fakhar was dismissed for 85. Imam meanwhile, went on to register his third century of the series and second in succession as Pakistan headed towards another big total. He was eventually dismissed after a 110-run stay at the crease.
Babar Azam took control of Pakistan’s innings following the openers’ dismissals. The right-hander brought up his eighth ODI ton off just 72 deliveries as he led the visitors to a total of 364-4 in their 50 overs. In reply, Zimbabwe openers have added 26 runs in the first seven overs. Hamilton Mazakadza and Tinashe Kamunhukamwe added 66 runs for the first wicket before the latter was dismissed by Mohammad Nawaz. The skipper followed him to the pavilion after being bowled by Hasan Ali. The pacer later broke a stubborn 78-run stand for the third wicket between Ryan Murray and Prince Masvaure by dismissing the latter. Murray and Peter Moor then got together for an unbeaten 67-run stand as Zimbabwe ended their innings at 233-4 in 50 overs.