Shaheen Shah Afridi grabbed five wickets and Wahab Riaz took four as Pakistan thwarted a fighting Zimbabwe to win the first One-day International by 26 runs in Rawalpindi on Friday.
Afridi finished with 5/49 while Riaz had figures of 4/41 as Pakistan survived a brilliant knock of 112 by Brendan Taylor, who put Zimbabwe briefly on course for an upset as they chased a daunting 282-run target.
The experienced Taylor lifted Zimbabwe from a struggling 115/4 with a solid partnership of 119 for the fifth wicket with newcomer Wesley Madhevere, who finished with a career-best 55.
Taylor knocked 11 boundaries and three well-timed sixes in his 117-ball knock, but holed out to Afridi at mid-off in the 47th over, leaving Pakistan to wrap up the last four wickets for just 15 runs.
The win gives Pakistan a 1-0 lead in the three-match series with the remaining matches at the same venue on Sunday and Tuesday.
They also claim 10 points in the World Cup One-Day Super League, which determines qualifiers for the next World Cup in 2023.
Afridi had given Pakistan two early breakthroughs by bowling Brian Chari (two) and skipper Chamu Chibhabha (13) by the fifth over.
Taylor steadied the innings with a 71-run stand with Craig Ervine (41) for the third wicket before Ervine and Sean Williams (four) fell quickly.
Taylor completed his 11th one-day century with a sharp single on overthrow, raising his bat to the standing ovation from his team’s dressing room.
Haris Sohail scored an attractive 71 from 82 balls while Imam-ul-Haq made 58 in Pakistan’s 281-8 after the hosts won the toss and opted to bat on a slow pitch.
Once opener Abid Ali departed for 21, Pakistan had high hopes with new captain Babar Azam, regarded as one of the world’s best batsmen in limited-overs cricket.
But his debut as ODI skipper ended early after a clumsy-looking shot off pacer Blessing Muzarabani for 19.
Imam and Sohail took Pakistan past 100 and looked set for a big partnership until they were both got out at the same end while taking a sharp single.
Imam’s knock had six hits to the boundary. Sohail, who hit two sixes and six boundaries, pulled a leg muscle and needed treatment on the ground.
Imad Wasim (34 not out) and Faheem Ashraf (23) added a quickfire 42 in their late partnership and Pakistan made 48 in the last five overs.
Zimbabwe’s spinners controlled the pace, with left-arm slow bowler Tendai Chisoro taking 2-31.
With this match, Pakistan’s Aleem Dar equalled South African umpire Rudi Koertzen’s record of officiating the most ODIs, with 209.
After the game, captain Azam was full of praise for Taylor’s innings, as well as his own side’s performance.
“Taylor’s knock was outstanding,” said Azam. “But I had confidence in my bowlers so I knew that once we got his wicket we would stop them from chasing the target.
“Riaz is an experienced campaigner but the way Afridi has been rising as a wicket-taking bowler it is good for us and the win is importnat as this is part of World Cup qualifying campaign.”