Shehzad, spinners sink Zimbabwe

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Opener Ahmed Shehzad's quickfire half-century and spinners' collective performance were too much for Zimbabwe to handle, as Pakistan clinched a 25-run triumph – and early series lead – in Friday's first Twenty20 International at the Harare Sports Club.

Opener Ahmed Shehzad's quickfire half-century and spinners' collective performance were too much for Zimbabwe to handle, as Pakistan clinched a 25-run triumph – and early series lead – in Friday's first Twenty20 International at the Harare Sports Club.

Shehzad's measured 70 allowed Pakistan to post a strong total of 161 for five, before leg-spinner Shahid Afridi snubbed out Zimbabwean resistance with three wickets.

Although Zimbabwe were much improved from the side that lost a recent one-day series against India five-nil, they let things slip in the field midway through the Pakistan innings and also lost their way after a promising start with the bat.

Shehzad's patience up front proved key to the match as he saw out a tricky opening period when Pakistan lost Nasir Jamshed and captain Mohammad Hafeez to Tendai Chatara, before slowly taking control against Zimbabwe's other seamers.

The opener took 17 runs off Elton Chigumbura's first over to put the pressure back on Zimbabwe, and shared in a 55-run stand with debutant Sohaib Maqsood.

Shehzad struck six fours and a six in his 50-ball innings before he was eventually caught on the boundary off the bowling of Shingirai Masakadza.

Afridi ensured that Pakistan finished strongly, hitting 23 not out from 16 deliveries, and then made key breakthroughs in the Zimbabwean innings in claiming figures of 3 for 25.

The home side started brightly with a 53-run opening stand between Hamilton Masakadza and Vusi Sibanda, but their inability to accelerate from a solid base meant that they never really threatened to achieve their target.

Afridi picked up the wickets of Sibanda and Timycen Maruma after laboured innings by both batsmen, and also dismissed the dangerous Chigumbura cheaply.

Although Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor came in at number three and finished unbeaten, he was often starved of the strike as he faced just 30 balls in top-scoring with 32.

Malcolm Waller's late salvo saw him take a six and a four off Saeed Ajmal's final over, but with too much to do Zimbabwe finished well short of the line.

The two teams will face off again at the same venue in the second and final Twenty20 International on Saturday.

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