Skipper Babar Azam smashed a robust half-century to lead Pakistan’s six-wicket rout of Zimbabwe in the first Twenty20 international in Rawalpindi on Saturday. Azam proved yet again why he is without doubt one of the top batsmen in white-ball cricket with an appealing 55-ball 82 to anchor Pakistan’s chase of a modest 157-run target in 18.5 overs. The win gives Pakistan a 1-0 lead in the three-match series and a 12th straight win over Zimbabwe in all Twenty20 international cricket. Wesley Madhevere struck a maiden half-century to lead Zimbabwe to 156-6 after they won the toss and batted. Azam, decided to regain his place as Twenty20’s top batsman — which he missing to England’s Dawid Malan two months ago — punched nine boundaries and a six all through his 80-run stand for the third wicket with Mohammad Hafeez, who made 36.
Azam was once in any case caught in the 17th over, as was once Hafeez in the 19th, but the target was once never beyond Pakistan.
Paceman Blessing Muzarabani finished with 2-26.
Zimbabwe, who upset Pakistan in the third one-day international at the end of their 2-1 loss in the previous series, were never ready to stop Azam’s free-flowing stroke play despite dismissing Fakhar Zaman (19) and Haider Ali (seven) by the eighth over.
Earlier, Zimbabwe added 46 in the final five overs with Madhevere in the lead.
Madhevere, the 20-year-old right-hander, struck a 48-ball 70 not out with nine boundaries and a six to help Zimbabwe post a respectable complete.
Madhevere, who had only four runs in his preceding two Twenty20 appearances, added 34 runs for the sixth wicket with Elton Chigumbura, who made a 13-ball 21 with a six and two boundaries.
Sean Williams (25) and Brendan Taylor (20) were the other contributors.
For Pakistan, pacemen Haris Rauf and Wahab Riaz took two wickets apiece.
Pakistan gave a Twenty20 international debut to 27-year-old spinner Usman Qadir, son of the great Abdul Qadir, who died final year.
The teams will meet again at the same venue on Sunday and Tuesday.
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