Pakistan take series 2-0 after washout
Zimbabwe made a formidable start in pursuit of Pakistan's 296 for 9 before the third ODI at the Gaddafi Stadium went through a checklist of delays, which prevented the match from progressing beyond the ninth over of the second innings. Floodlight failure caused the initial stoppage after Zimbabwe had surged to 68 for none. A dust storm then blew through the ground, just as the floodlight was fixed. Finally, after the players had returned to the ground and played out one full over, heavy rain fell to wash out play.
Earlier, Pakistan's middle-order had nearly squandered a fine start from Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali, but a measured half-century from debutant Babar Azam and Anwar Ali's finishing cameo raised them to a tall score. Hafeez hit a run-a-ball 80 at the top of the innings, before Sikandar Raza's offspin claimed three scalps, and two more batsmen were run out. Anwar's 38 from 23, though, corrected the Pakistan's course.
Zimbabwe were without Brian Vitori and Tawanda Mupariwa, who were unavailable due to injury, and the depleted seam attack began waywardly. Hafeez clipped the fourth ball of the innings through the leg side for four, establishing what would become a theme for the early overs, as Christopher Mpofu and Tinashe Panyangara continued to fire balls into the pads.
There were also errors in length, though Azhar Ali's routine shuffles forward from the popping crease also played a role in scrambling the Zimbabwe bowlers' plans. Both opening batsmen scored heavily square of the wicket - Azhar clobbered a flat six over point off Mpofu in the seventh over, immediately before dabbing another short ball behind square for a boundary. Neither batsman was flying in the Powerplay, but the score had moved to 52 from the first ten overs without any real chance of a wicket falling.
Spin was introduced after the field was relaxed, but was coolly maneouvred for a while as Azhar drew close to 50, and Hafeez exceeded it off the 53rd delivery he faced. Hafeez launched the leg spin of Graeme Cremer over cow corner early in the 20th over, but lost his partner a few balls later. Pushing the ball towards cover, Hafeez set out for a quick single, only for Sikandar Raza to find the stumps with his throw, ending Azhar's innings at 46 from 59 balls.
Hafeez batted on at a brisk pace, but was undone by Raza himself in the 26th over, when he missed a leg-stump dart that struck him low on the pads. That wicket sparked Pakistan's middle-order decline, as the finger spin of Raza and Sean Williams exerted some control over the middle overs. Asad Shafiq tamely chipped a Raza delivery into the hands of midwicket, two overs before Shoaib Malik ran himself out attempting an ambitious second. Sarfraz Ahmed had stroked 25 from 22 with typical panache, when he poked Raza to midwicket as well. Having been 115 for no loss, Pakistan slid to 196 for 5, then 211 for 6 in the 41st over, as Hammad Azam was bowled for 4, aiming a huge leg-side heave.
Having arrived at two down, Babar Azam was circumspect in his first few minutes of international cricket, collecting well-measured runs into the outfield as more experienced men kept taking fraught risks. His run rate was acceptable enough despite a low incidence of boundaries. When he reached 50 off 54 balls in the 45th over, he had hit only four falls - all of which came off loose deliveries. He had already ceded the stage to the more bloody-minded Anwar when he was out for 54 two overs later.
Anwar prospered in the traditional lower-order batsman's area of long on, smiting two sixes in that direction while he also collected two boundaries on the off side. He had Wahab Riaz's company for a 28-run, eighth-wicket stand. Both men were dismissed chasing quick runs, but that partnership ensured Pakistan finished in the vicinity of 300, which is where the innings seemed headed when Hafeez and Azhar put on their century stand.
Undaunted by Pakistan's total, Chamu Chibhabha and Vusi Sibanda began to punish bowling errors even more severely than the hosts' openers had. Sibanda cracked two square boundaries on the off side off Anwar Ali in the fourth over, before the pair combined to reap 13 runs from Junaid Khan immediately after. Wahab Riaz struck Vusi Sibanda on the head with a bouncer in his second over, but even he went at more than a run a ball. Chibhabha was on 39 from 27 balls when the rains came. Sibanda had scored 28 from 27.