Faisal Iqbal seals victory

Pakistan 211 for 2 (Faisal 100*, Younis Khan 56) beat Zimbabwe 210 (G Flower 105*, Friend 48, Mohammad Sami 4-41) by eight wickets with 14.2 overs to spare

Faisal Iqbal’s maiden international century and an incisive spell of fast bowling from Mohammad Sami guided Pakistan to a comfortable eight-wicket victory at Harare, as Zimbabwe slumped to their fourth consecutive defeat of the series.

There is just one match to come, on the same ground tomorrow, so a whitewash seems an inevitable prospect. And yet, despite wrapping up the win with more than 14 overs to spare, even Faisal’s innings was overshadowed by a rearguard of heroic proportions from Grant Flower, whose unbeaten 105 formed exactly half of Zimbabwe’s total of 210.

After winning the toss and choosing to bat, Zimbabwe made a terrible start, collapsing from 11 for 0 to 13 for 4 inside the fifth over. The series was already won, so Pakistan had rested Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis (Inzamam-ul-Haq took over as captain), but Shoaib Akhtar was back to bolster the bowling. He trapped Mark Vermeulen lbw for 9 and castled Dion Ebrahim for 2, while at the other end, the pacy Mohammad Sami broke Zimbabwean hearts with a crucial double strike: Alistair Campbell and Andy Flower, first ball.

Grant saved the hat-trick – just, as Sami roared out an lbw appeal – but when Tatenda Taibu tickled Sami to the keeper it was 41 for 6 and humiliation beckoned. But Flower soon found a friend, in Travis of that ilk. Friend smacked a beefy 48 from 53 balls, with five fours and a six, before Shahid Afridi whistled one through his defence. But their seventh-wicket stand of 82 had turned Harare horrors into hopes.

At this point, Flower took charge, eking out 87 runs for the last three wickets, even though no-one else reached double figures. He cracked 11 fours in his sixth ODI century, to set alongside six in Tests. For Pakistan, Sami finished with 4 for 41, while both Mohammad Zahid and Shoaib took two wickets.

Pakistan’s batting was slightly weakened, with both first-choice openers, Taufeeq Umar and Salim Elahi, rested. But Faisal was keen to state his World Cup case, and the wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal was promoted after some pugnacious lower-order biffing, so Zimbabwe were never in with a chance of defending their meagre total. Nevertheless, after Akmal had fallen for a typically breezy 44 from 36 balls, the final overs provided plenty entertainment, as Faisal and Younis Khan raced towards their respective milestones.

With the target approaching and Faisal still 11 short of his century, Younis clobbered Grant Flower for six before driving Brian Murphy through the covers to celebrate his 12th one-day fifty. Faisal responded by launching Flower for a six of his own to move to 99 with two runs required, and though Younis was run out attempting a quick single, Misbah-ul-Haq resisted temptation to allow his team-mate to reach three figures.

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