Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Blessing Muzarabani the hero, twice, as Zimbabwe win final ODI in Super Over shootout

Standing tall - Blessing Muzarabani picked up five wickets in regulation time and two more in the Super Over AFP via Getty Images

Zimbabwe 278 for 6 (Williams 118*, Taylor 56, Hasnain 5-26) tied with Pakistan 278 for 9 (Azam 125, Riaz 52, Muzarabani 5-49)

Super Over: Zimbabwe 3 beat Pakistan 2

Blessing Muzarabani. In a game with two centuries, two five-fors, a tie, and a Super Over, Muzarabani made all the difference as Zimbabwe almost fluffed their lines before pulling off a win in the third and final ODI via the one-over shootout. In normal time, Muzarabani took a five-for. He was at it again afterwards, picking up two wickets to give his batsmen a three-run chase, which they pulled off.

That the match ended in a tie was down to Pakistan - thanks to Babar Azam's 125 and Wahab Riaz's 52 - dragging their chase of 279 deep, and the Zimbabweans losing their composure towards the death. Sikandar Raza, who later scored the winning run, dropped a straightforward chance in the deep off Riaz, and a Tendai Chisoro misfield let the final ball through for four, levelling the scores. The door seemed to have been shut on Zimbabwe there, but Muzarabani ensured a first win for Zimbabwe in 11 ODIs, and Pakistan's first defeat in ten.

Pakistan's record chasing over 250 hasn't been the best of late: they have won just four of the last 23. But on an excellent strip for batting, they would have fancied their chances though the target wasn't small. Muzarabani, however, had other ideas, knocking back Imam-ul-Haq's off stump in the first over, while Richard Ngarava removed Haider Ali and Fakhar Zaman in quick succession. Pakistan, like Zimbabwe earlier, had lost the top three in no time.

Azam's solo effort of poise and grit for much of the remainder of the innings was a knock so glorious he didn't deserve to be on the losing side, but not enough of his batting mates, arguably, deserved to win. Iftikhar Ahmed hung around but was castled by one of many gems from Muzarabani, a glorious in-seamer that knocked back his off stump. Khushdil Shah put up a useful 63-run partnership with Azam on debut, but the 46-ball 33 he scored was far removed from the sort of destructive innings he has a reputation for.

It was - yes! - Muzarabani, whose extra bounce spelled the end for Shah, too, before Riaz's enterprising half-century finally gave Azam some support, and put Pakistan on course, apparently once and for all, for 3-0. Azam, through all this, had put together a chanceless hundred, only his second in a chase, following that famous knock against New Zealand at the World Cup. But the asking rate was never truly in control, and when Riaz holed out attempting one rash shot too many, Zimbabwe were right back in it again.

They seemed to have sealed it when Muzarabani got rid of two more batsmen in the penultimate over, the second a ripsnorter that finally put an end to Azam's vigil. That left Mohammad Musa and Mohammad Hasnain - the hero earlier in the day with his 5 for 26 - to fetch 13 from the last over, and then five off the final ball. Chisoro was poor in the field all day, and the ball invariably went to him. He failed to get down in time, and we had our first ODI Super Over since the 2019 World Cup final.

It was here that Pakistan's decision-making let them down. Azam, who was out batting minutes ago, didn't feature. Shah and Ahmed went out instead. Ahmed was beaten by pace first ball and holed out, and soon after, with Shah falling too, Zimbabwe had just three to chase. For a change, it was done without drama.

Ages ago, or so it seemed, Pakistan might have entertained hopes of a speedy finish when Zimbabwe lost their first three wickets for 22, all to Hasnain, but a remarkable fightback, headlined by a fourth ODI century from Sean Williams, powered the visiting side to 278 for 6, their highest total in three games. Hasnain produced the bowling performance of the series for Pakistan, taking five of the six wickets to fall, while bowling three maidens and conceding just 26 runs. It should have been his day, ut Williams might just have shaded him by the halfway mark of the match. Muzarabani did it later anyway.

Zimbabwe had won another toss and decided to have another crack at putting up a respectable score, but Hasnain looked to have doused those hopes in record time. Playing his first match of the series, he struck off just his third ball, removing Chamu Chibhabha, before coming back to knock back Brian Chari's stumps to ensure another Zimbabwe opening failure. Things became even direr when Hasnain, spitting fire with almost every ball, had Craig Ervine nicking off to Mohammad Rizwan. Zimbabwe's top order had been shredded, and Pakistan were so far ahead that the position looked unassailable.

Enter Brendan Taylor and Williams. Williams allowed the in-form Taylor to take charge in the early stages, cautiously negotiating Hasnain while trying to get runs ticking over against the other bowlers. Before long, they had brought up the 50-run partnership, and while they were still not out of the woods, the bloodletting had stopped, and the swing of momentum had been initiated.

Taylor scored a half-century before Hasnain removed him, only for Williams and Wesley Madhevere to combine for a punchy little partnership, with the 20-year-old taking a few risks that relieved some of the pressure on the senior batsman. Ahmed was not allowed to settle, with Madhevere taking the lead from Williams and smacking him for three fours in two overs, and suddenly the run rate began to look healthier. The issue, however, was the long tail and the number of wickets that had been lost, and when Madhevere's cameo ended, once again by the irrepressible Hasnain, Williams and Raza became the last line of defence.

Williams was dropped in the 40th over, which would have given Hasnain a sixth wicket and likely held Zimbabwe to a much lower total. Instead, he went on to complete a special hundred, and set up a target that allowed Zimbabwe's bowlers a sniff. In the end, that was all Muzarabani needed.

Pakistan 2nd innings Partnerships

1st4Fakhar ZamanImam-ul-Haq
2nd2Babar AzamFakhar Zaman
3rd14Babar AzamHaider Ali
4th31Mohammad RizwanBabar Azam
5th37Babar AzamIftikhar Ahmed
6th63Babar AzamKhushdil Shah
7th100Wahab RiazBabar Azam
8th15Babar AzamShaheen Shah Afridi
9th0Babar AzamMuhammad Musa
10th12Muhammad MusaMohammad Hasnain