Babar reaches milestone and Rizwan shines again as Pakistan clinch T20 series

By Sports Desk April 25, 2021

Babar Azam became the fastest player to reach 2,000 Twenty20 runs in international cricket as he helped Pakistan secure a series-clinching victory over Zimbabwe on Sunday.

Captain Babar made 52 but it was Mohammad Rizwan's unbeaten 91 that powered Pakistan to 165-3 in the third and final game at the Harare Sports Club.

That total proved beyond Zimbabwe, though Wesley Madhevere (59) had the hosts in contention. They were 102-1 at one stage in reply, only to lose three wickets for eight runs to scupper their hopes.

Tadiwanashe Marumani departed for 35 to trigger the mini collapse and, despite 20 from Brendan Taylor, the innings fell away in the closing stages, finishing up at 141-7 to lose by 24 runs.

Hasan Ali was the star performer for Pakistan with the ball, taking career-best figures of 4-18, as the tourists bounced back after a first ever loss to Zimbabwe in the format on Friday.

With his side bowled out for 99 when chasing in the previous game, Babar opted to bat first after winning the toss. Sharjeel Khan fell for 18 in the powerplay but the skipper combined with opener Rizwan to put on a crucial second-wicket stand worth 126.

The partnership eventually came to an end when Babar was caught in the deep in the final over, with Fakhar Zaman then falling immediately in similar fashion as he registered a first-ball duck.

Luke Jongwe benefited from the late double to finish with figures of 3-37, giving him nine wickets in the series at an average of 8.77. He had claimed 4-18 in his team's victory but the hosts were unable to pull off a repeat result.

The two nations now switch their focus to Test cricket. A two-match series begins in Harare on Thursday.


Rizwan gets maximum rewards

As was the case in the opening fixture, the home team appeared in a strong position in a run chase, only to falter as the finishing line drew into sight. Madhevere hit seven of his team's 16 fours, yet they did not manage a solitary six between them.

Indeed, Rizwan was the only player to clear the boundary rope in the match, doing so three times as he registered a fourth unbeaten half-century in his past seven T20 games.

Captain fantastic in fine form

The ever-consistent Babar has now managed 50 or more on 11 occasions in T20 cricket for Pakistan since the start of 2019, a fine run of form that has helped him reach a notable personal milestone.

He made it to the 2,000-run mark in 52 innings - four fewer than India skipper Virat Kohli. His career average in the format now stands at a hugely impressive 47.32.

Related items

  • Slovakia v Spain: Profligate three-time winners at risk due to draw streak Slovakia v Spain: Profligate three-time winners at risk due to draw streak

    Luis Enrique accepted criticism ahead of Spain's decisive Group E clash with Slovakia, where another draw may not be enough.

    Spain have drawn with Sweden and Poland so far at Euro 2020 and could follow Portugal in 2016 as the second ever team to be held in all three matches in a European Championship group stage.

    Portugal went on to win that tournament, but Spain would not even be assured of third place in their pool and a place in the next round if results went against them elsewhere.

    Worryingly for Luis Enrique, whose side missed a host of chances in their first two matches, a point apiece appears the most likely result.

    Spain have drawn each of their past four major tournament matches – one shy of a record for European sides.

    And a point would suit Slovakia, ensuring they advance for the third time in three major tournament appearances, after the World Cup in 2010 and Euro 2016.

    Spain coach Luis Enrique described himself as "preoccupied with us meriting better results but not getting them".

    "We've created enough chances to win both games," he added, yet the under-fire boss recognised he could not complain about scrutiny.

    "We coaches fully understand the fact that we live by results, and what not meeting your objectives means," Luis Enrique said.

    "I'm hoping that by the end of Wednesday we're not only in the knockouts but as group winners. Right now I'll accept the criticism."
     

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Slovakia – Martin Dubravka

    Goalkeeper Dubravka conceded the costly penalty when Slovakia lost their second match to Sweden, having earlier made a stunning save. That was one of just five stops so far at the tournament, though, while he has picked the ball out of his net twice. Spain may be wasteful, but that save rate may need to improve.

    Spain – Gerard Moreno

    Moreno will certainly hope to keen Dubravka busy – if he gets the opportunity. The forward missed a penalty against Poland (Spain's fifth miss from their past eight attempts at the Euros) and Luis Enrique hinted at potentially looking for a solution in attack. Moreno has been involved in more goals (nine) for Spain since his debut than any other player.
     

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    – Slovakia have won only one of their six meetings with Spain (D1 L4), a home victory in a European Championship qualifier back in October 2014 (2-1). This is their first encounter at a major tournament.
    – Spain have won all three of their previous matches on home soil against Slovakia, scoring 11 goals and conceding two.
    – Slovakia are unbeaten in their final group-stage game at both of their previous two major tournaments, winning 3-2 against Italy at the 2010 World Cup and drawing 0-0 with England at Euro 2016. They have progressed from the group stages at both previous tournaments.
    – Including one as caretaker manager in 2018, Stefan Tarkovic has only lost two of his 11 matches in charge of Slovakia in all competitions (W4 D5 L2), with one of those defeats coming last time out against Sweden; Slovakia are yet to lose back-to-back games under him.
    – Spain have drawn their last four major tournament matches (World Cup and Euros); among European nations, only Italy (five from 1980 to 1982) have ever had a longer run of successive such draws.

  • Ecuador v Peru: Blanquirroja on the brink of quarter-finals Ecuador v Peru: Blanquirroja on the brink of quarter-finals

    Peru beat Ecuador in a World Cup qualifier this month and a repeat of that victory on Wednesday will see them through to the quarter-finals of the Copa America.

    Goals from Luis Advincula and Christian Cueva in Quito on June 8 gave Peru a first win in the battle to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar next year.

    The Blanquirroja responded to a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Brazil in their Copa America opener by beating Colombia 2-1 in Goiania on Sunday.

    Ricardo Gareca's side moved up to third in Group B courtesy of a Yerry Mina own goal and with four teams qualifying for the last eight, they are on the verge of advancing.

    Peru, beaten in the 2019 final by Brazil, will have to improve at the back, having failed to keep a clean sheet in 11 matches but will be on a high after ending a run of 10 games without getting the better of Colombia.

    Ecuador are bottom of the group with one point after Ronald Hernandez's stoppage-time goal salvaged a 2-2 draw for Venezuela on Sunday.

    La Tri boss Gustavo Alfaro is well aware of the threat Peru pose ahead of the clash at Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico Teixeira.

    He said: "We must not forget that they have come from being finalists of the last Copa America. Apart from the fact that they had a bad start to the qualifying rounds, they are in a process of recovery. They have a very good and capable coach in Ricardo Gareca.

    "I have full confidence in who we are, in the capacities that they have from the middle of the field forward, in how they dominate situations, in everything they have done in knockout games."


    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Ecuador – Gonzalo Plata

    Plata was only introduced as a substitute midway through the second half against Venezuela but surely did enough to earn a start.

    The winger put La Tri in front for a second time and hit the target with three of his four shots in a lively cameo, also providing two key passes.

    Peru – Alexander Callens

    A lack of clean sheets has been an issue for Peru, but Callens played a big hand in the win over Colombia at the heart of their defence.

    His seven clearances were over twice as many as any other player as Peru picked up three precious points.

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    - Ecuador have failed to win in their previous five games against Peru in World Cup qualification and Copa America (D1 L4) fixtures. Previously, they were 11 games unbeaten against Los Incas in these competitions (W7 D4).

    - Three of the four Ecuador wins under Gustavo Alfaro were at home: their only win away from home with him as a manager was against Bolivia, in World Cup qualification.

    - Peru are the only side to have progressed from all group stages in the Copa America since 1997. Argentina are the other team that have never been eliminated in the first round in that time, though they did not appear in Copa America 2001.

    - Thanks to his goal against Venezuela, Ecuador's Plata became the first player born in the 21st century to score in Copa America.

    - Two Peruvians rank in the top four players with the most recoveries per game in this Copa America (at least two appearances): Renato Tapia (10.5), Yoshimar Yotun (9, alongside Ecuador's Pervis Estupinan), surpassed only by Junior Alonso (11).

  • Brazil v Colombia: Selecao out to secure top spot Brazil v Colombia: Selecao out to secure top spot

    Brazil can secure top spot in Copa America Group B with victory over Colombia on Wednesday.

    The two sides go into the glamour clash of the group on the back of hugely contrasting results against Peru.

    Neymar and Co. ensured the Selecao swept aside Los Incas 4-0 in their last game, but Colombia were stunned as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat to the same opposition.

    As a result, Brazil will finish top of Group B should they win against Colombia and Peru fail to beat Ecuador.

    That will secure a quarter-final with the fourth-placed side in Group A, but it may not mean a routine last-eight clash, as Uruguay occupy that spot as it stands.

    A win will secure Colombia's place in the quarters, though a draw could be enough if Ecuador lose to Peru in the earlier game.

    The omens are not good for Colombia heading into the match in Rio de Janeiro. They are winless in their last four meetings with Selecao, Colombia's last victory coming in the 2015 Copa America.

    Brazil are the top scorers in the tournament, having netted seven goals in their opening two games, but they may look to show greater ruthlessness in front of goal against Colombia.

    Their 35 shots have carried an expected goals (xG) value of 8.6 and, with this game likely to be a better barometer of where they stand ahead of the knockout stages, Brazil will be eager to do a better job of taking their chances and send a message to their rivals for the trophy.

    Should Colombia seal progression, it will be the fifth successive Copa America in which they have reached the last eight.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Brazil - Richarlison

    The Everton striker may have earned a place in the starting XI with his performance in the thumping of Peru.

    Richarlison came on at the start of the second half for Gabriel Barbosa and had four shots, with three on target, scored Brazil's fourth and created two chances.

    Colombia - Edwin Cardona

    Though Colombia slumped to a surprise defeat, it was another impressive performance for Cardona against Peru.

    He created a match-high three chances, taking his tally for the tournament to seven, and produced two good crosses in a game Colombia lost despite having an xG of 1.5 to Peru's 0.94.

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    - Brazil have lost only of their last 19 games against Colombia in all competitions (W11 D7). Their only defeat against them in that run was in Copa America 2015 (1-0).

    - Brazil are unbeaten at home since their defeat to the Netherlands in third-place play-off at the 2014 World Cup. Since then, they have played 25 games (W22 D3) and only failed to score in two games.

    - Colombia boss Reinaldo Rueda is looking for his first win against Brazil: he has managed two games against them, one as Ecuador manager and another in his previous spell with Colombia (D1 L1). His draw was for Colombia on Brazilian soil in qualification for the 2006 World Cup.

    - Brazil have scored more goals (7) and had more shots on target per game (8) than any other team in Copa America 2021, and only Paraguay (16.5) have created more chances per game than the Brazilians (12.5) in the competition. Brazil have score one goal every 26 minutes on average.

    - Colombia have made their shots, on average, closer to the target than any other side (13.7 metres): 82.5 per cent of their shots were from inside the box, the highest percentage in Copa America 2021.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.