On Sunday eve, Pakistan clinched yet another T20I series victory, their fifth on the trot. Although, Babar Azam and his battalion managed to fill up Pakistan Cricket's trophy cabinet with another silverware, there is a general notion going around that the three-match series raised more questions than answering them for the visitors. Zimbabwe, on the other hand, gave a decent account of themselves throughout the series and could have clasped a historic series win had it not been for unwarranted middle-overs' slowdowns and sloppy fielding, particularly in the series opener. In this article, we dig deeper into some of the key takeaways from a well-contested T20I series.
Mohammad Rizwan is here to stay at the top of the line-up
Mohammad Rizwan has turned into a T20I goliath ever since he has been handed the responsibility of opening the innings for Pakistan. There was a discussion circling around in Pakistan cricket's fraternity as to whether the team management should demote Mohammad Rizwan and open with Fakhar Zaman or Sharjeel Khan in order to cater to the faltering middle-order. The in-form wicket-keeper batsman has busted these talks with two match-winning knocks topped off by a man of the series award.
As an opener, Mohammad Rizwan is currently averaging 80-plus, striking the ball at around 140, and has grasped four man of the match awards in Pakistan's last eight outings. As depicted in the results tabulated above, Mohammad Rizwan is likelier to up the ante and finish an innings on a high - indicative by his exceptional average and not-out ratio) when he faces the most number of deliveries.
Young Zimbabwean players have the potential to take the team to newer heights
The greatest takeaway from the T20I series from a more neutral perspective would be the way Zimbabwe gave an account of themselves against an in-form Pakistan outfit. Zimbabwe, with their blend of youth and experience, were not expected to fight it out like the way they did keeping into view the recent series whitewash they suffered at the hands of Afghanistan in the Emirati dunes. However, the Men in Red showcased their prowess in the format and that they can be a tricky side to face in conditions familiar to them.
The likes of Luke Jongwe, Wesley Madhevere, Ryan Burl and Blessing Muzarabani were highly impressive and kept their team in with a shout in all three matches. Luke Jongwe topped the bowling charts with 9 wickets at a remarkable average of 8.77. He also contributed to the team's batting cause in the first T20I. Ryan Burl kept things incredibly tight in the 2nd T20I and was one of the primary reasons behind Pakistan's unprecedented collapse. Similarly, Wesley Madhevere, once again, stole the show with the bat and kept his country in the hunt for the silverware during their run-chase in the series finale. He is already termed as the next big thing for Zimbabwe cricket and has time and again illustrated the potential he bears.
Middle-order instability continues to haunt Pakistan
Pakistan's middle-order, once again, proved to be an Achilles' heel for them and almost costed them the series had it not been for Mohammad Rizwan's rescue mission in the first T20I and the partnership between him and Babar Azam in the final encounter.
To depict the misery of Pakistan batsmen who batted between No 4 and No 7 (inclusive) across the three games, in numbers, they accumulated 56 runs between them from 9 innings at an appalling combined average of 6.22. This is even worse than what Pakistan's middle-order averaged in South Africa - 11.58. This has a stark contrast to the numbers of the top-three where Mohammad Rizwan once again domineered the batting charts.