South Africa will be hoping some fresh faces can lead to a change in fortunes in Pakistan as the two nations switch focus to the Twenty20 format. 

Lahore will stage all three matches in the series, which comes after Pakistan recorded a 2-0 sweep over the same opponents in Test action. 

However, many of the Proteas who featured in that series are not involved in the T20 fixtures, including captain Quinton de Kock. 

Heinrich Klaasen is instead in charge for the tourists, while Dwaine Pretorius, Lutho Sipamla, Tabraiz Shamsi and George Linde are the only members of the squad who have stayed on after Test duty. 

The stand-in skipper insists that while South Africa may be lacking in experience, those on duty are determined to seize the opportunities that come their way during the trip. 

"South Africa has got loads of talent, which people sometimes don't see because we only have six franchises," Klaasen said. "We are by no means a second-string T20 squad, and we are looking to win." 

Klaasen revealed he is now "fit and safe" after overcoming COVID-19, though it took a heavy toll on him physically. He put up an Instagram post during his recovery to make clear the effects of the virus, in which he wrote: "Covid is real and didn't think it would be this hard to come back". 

As for Pakistan, they have named a 20-man squad that includes four uncapped players but is missing Mohammad Hafeez, who failed to come to an agreement over the date he was to enter the group's bio-secure bubble. 

Fakhar Zaman and Wahab Riaz are also notable absentees having been dropped, while Shadab Khan is ruled out through injury. 

Zafar Gohar, Danish Aziz, Zahid Mehmood and Amad Butt are the quartet of new faces, while Hasan Ali – the hero for the hosts in the second Test with 10 wickets in the match – is back involved again in the shortest format.

Pakistan go into the opening game on Thursday having won 14 of their previous 18 T20 matches on home soil (L4), including the last five in a row.


Babar right up there with the best

No matter what the format, Babar Azam is crucial to Pakistan. The right-handed batsman has scored the most amount of runs in T20 cricket at international level since the start of 2018, managing 1,213 across his 28 innings at an average of 52.7.

After a relatively quiet Test series in terms of his individual output, Babar will be eager to capitalise on a new-look South African attack that is without the services of pace trio Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi.

Positive spin to help Proteas

Shamsi is one of the few who has remained for the T20 series; the left-arm wrist spinner was ruled out of the first Test with a back injury and then did not feature in the second match.

The 30-year-old has played in 25 T20 games for South Africa, taking 21 wickets at 33.33 with an economy rate of 7.69 runs per over, and has the chance to become a pivotal member of the XI, particularly with a World Cup in the format to come in India later this year.

Key series facts

- South Africa have never lost a multi-game bilateral T20 series in Asia, winning five times out of a possible six in the continent (D1).
- Since the start of 2018, Pakistan wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed (18 catches and five stumpings) has been directly involved in the joint-most T20 dismissals among those featuring for a Test-playing nation (23 – level with Alex Carey and Tim Seifert).
- Since the start of 2018, Babar Azam has scored the most runs in the T20 format, managing 1,213 runs across his 28 innings at an average of 52.7.
- Only David Miller from the current Proteas squad has played a T20 international game in Pakistan, having represented the World XI in 2017. He has logged 20 catches in the format since the start of 2018, the third-most of those to feature for a Test-playing nation.
- Faheem Ashraf recorded more dot balls than any other player during the T20 series against New Zealand in December 2020). He has only been able to claim four wickets at an average of 41.3 in Pakistan, however.

Babar Azam and Fawad Alam halted a worrying start to the second Test between Pakistan and South Africa before rain stopped play at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium on Thursday.

Pakistan won the opening Test but lost three wickets for just one run as they were reduced to 22-3 in a promising first session for the Proteas on day one.

However, like he did with a century in Karachi last week, Fawad (42no) helped get the hosts back on track by establishing a 123-run partnership with captain Babar (77no).

The pair displayed some wonderful shots as they took the match to South Africa, with Babar racking up 12 fours and Fawad five but rain during tea stopped them returning on 145-3.

Keshav Maharaj would have had a first-ball wicket had Temba Bavuma held on to Imran Butt (15) at first slip on 13 but he got his man courtesy of a sharp catch from wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, making his final appearance as Test captain.

Maharaj (2-51) had Azhar Ali lbw for a duck in his next over and Pakistan looked in serious trouble when Aiden Markram reacted brilliantly at short leg after Anrich Nortje's rapid delivery struck Abid Ali (6) on the thigh and zoomed towards him.

However, Babar responded by getting off the mark with back-to-back boundaries and, alongside Karachi hero Fawad, steered the hosts to lunch without further loss.

The duo continued to assert themselves and Babar brought up his 16th Test half-century and took Pakistan into triple figures with a fine shot in front of square.

Kagiso Rabada thought he had made the breakthrough but his appeal for lbw against Babar was ignored, with replays showing the skipper sent an inside edge onto his pads.

South Africa were unable to break the impressive fourth-wicket stand before tea and heavy rainfall denied them the chance to make further inroads during the final session.

 

PEAKY LINDE

George Linde left the field during the first session for an X-ray after hurting a finger on his left bowling hand while fielding.

He did not sustain a fracture but received stitches and practiced bowling with protective strapping on before stepping back inside the ropes before tea.

Linde did not bowl another over, but the Proteas will be hoping he can do so before the end of the match, with Dean Elgar having stepped up as a second spin option.

Nauman Ali claimed a maiden five-wicket haul to help Pakistan win the first Test against South Africa in Karachi, despite an early wobble in their run chase.

Having bowled out the Proteas for 245 in the first session on day four, the hosts lost openers Abid Ali and Imran Butt to slip to 23-2 when needing 88.

However, captain Babar Azam made 30 and despite his departure on the brink of victory, trapped lbw by Keshav Maharaj, first-innings centurion Fawad Alam hit the winning boundary to seal a seven-wicket triumph. Azhar Ali, meanwhile, finished up unbeaten on 31.

South Africa have now lost eight successive Tests overseas. They had resumed on 187-4 but managed to add just a further 58 runs for the loss of their final six wickets, debutant Nauman taking four of them as he finished with 5-35 from 25.3 overs.

Nightwatchman Maharaj was dismissed by the first ball of the day, bowled by one that kept a little low from paceman Hasan Ali.

Proteas captain Quinton de Kock then fell to Yasir Shah for two, giving the leg spinner a fourth wicket of the innings.

From then on, though, Nauman took charge. He worked his way through the tail and while Temba Bavuma battled hard, the batsman was last man out when trapped lbw by the left-arm spinner for 40.

Anrich Nortje gave the tourists a glimmer of hope when he dismissed both opening batsmen straight after the lunch break, but South Africa will rue a late clatter of wickets on day three having battled so hard with the bat to wipe out a first-innings deficit of 168.

 

Nauman makes an immediate impact

At 34 years and 111 days, Nauman was the fourth oldest debutant for Pakistan in the format. The wait proved worthwhile, though, as he finished with impressive match figures of 7-73.

While Yasir claimed the key scalp of De Kock, it was his fellow slow bowler who made sure the home team were left with a manageable target on a tired pitch showing obvious signs of variable bounce.

Babar celebrates home comforts

Despite his late dismissal - falling for a second time in the game to the left-arm spin of Maharaj - Babar can reflect on a satisfying first outing as Test skipper, having missed the 2-0 series defeat in New Zealand due to injury.

As was the case against the Black Caps, the top order struggled for runs. However, Fawad's superb first-innings century helped lead a recovery and the result means Pakistan cannot lose the series now. The second and final match takes place in Rawalpindi, starting on February 4.

Babar Azam will finally get the chance to lead Pakistan in Test cricket as a two-match series against South Africa begins in Karachi on Tuesday.  

Batsman Babar was appointed to the role last November, yet missed both Tests on the tour of New Zealand, as well as the Twenty20 series that followed, after suffering a fractured thumb during a practice session.  

Mohammad Rizwan took charge in the regular skipper’s absence, though he was unable to prevent Pakistan slipping to a 2-0 defeat against the Black Caps.  

The return of Babar on home soil is a boost, not least because he will bolster a batting line-up that struggled badly in New Zealand.  

Shan Masood has lost his place at the top of the order following a lack of runs, while the Pakistan selectors also left out Haris Sohail and Mohammad Abbas from an initial 20-man squad.  

Opener Imran Butt is set to make his Test debut at the National Stadium, a venue where the home team have lost only one of their last seven Tests, albeit that defeat did come against the Proteas, back in October 2007.  

Both Shadab Khan and Naseem Shah are missing due to injuries, while Abbas' absence from the bowling attack could lead to a recall for Hasan Ali.

As for South Africa, they have arrived fresh from a 2-0 series sweep over Sri Lanka. Quinton de Kock continues in charge, the wicketkeeper-batsman set to play in his 50th Test in the opener. 

The Proteas captain has Kagiso Rabada available again, bolstering a pace attack that performed so impressively against Sri Lanka without him. With Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi and Lutho Sipamla also vying to play, there are a wealth of options when it comes to seam bowling.

However, the balancing act for South Africa will come over whether to select two spinners. Tabraiz Shamsi is the likely option to come into the XI, joining forces with fellow slow bowler Keshav Maharaj. 
 

NO PLACE LIKE HOME 

His absence keenly felt in New Zealand, Babar will be determined to make up for lost time when he goes up against South Africa in his homeland. 

The stylish right-hander has scored 50 or more in each of his four Test innings in Pakistan, including three centuries. His batting average in the country (202.5) is the best by any player in Test history there. 
 

MILESTONES IN SIGHT FOR DE KOCK 

There is the potential for not one but two major milestones for De Kock, who had a relatively quiet series with the bat against Sri Lanka. 

The destructive left-hander is just 38 away from becoming the 16th player to score 3,000 Test runs for South Africa. He equalled his highest Test score (129) in his most recent innings against Pakistan two years ago, too. 


KEY MATCH FACTS

- South Africa have lost only one of their 10 multi-game Test series against Pakistan (W6, D3), that loss coming when they toured Pakistan in 2003 (1-0).

- Lutho Sipamla finished with a bowling strike-rate of 23.9 in the Proteas' most recent Test series (10 wickets against Sri Lanka), the best by any player. 

- Pakistan have lost only one of their last eight Test series on home soil (W5, D2), though that solitary setback came against South Africa (1-0 in October 2007).

- Mohammad Rizwan has scored 50+ in five of his previous six Test innings, having done so only once in his first 11 at the crease in the format.

- Faf du Plessis has faced Shaheen Afridi in three Test innings heading into this series, being dismissed by the Pakistan paceman on each occasion while scoring just 27 runs in response.

New Zealand will aim to continue their winning streak in the second and final Test against Pakistan, with Kane Williamson's side having the chance to make history in Christchurch.

The home team won the opening game by 101 runs late on the fifth day in Mount Maunganui, finally seeing off spirited resistance from Pakistan's tail with 4.3 overs remaining.

Victory means the Black Caps have now won five Tests on the spin – they have never previously managed six in a row in the format.

There will be at least one change to their team for their first outing in 2021, Neil Wagner ruled out with a broken toe.

The left-arm paceman played on through the pain in the first Test, earning praise from Williamson. However, he is expected to be sidelined for six weeks, leading to New Zealand calling up Matt Henry.

As for Pakistan, they are set to be boosted by the return of captain Babar Azam, who missed the previous game – as well as the Twenty20 series that preceded the Test action – with a broken thumb.

Without their talismanic captain, the tourists were fragile at the top of the order. They fought back well from 52-5 to post 239 in their first innings, while nearly saved the game despite slipping to 37-3 second time around.

They will be up against it, though; New Zealand have lost only one of their previous seven Tests played at Hagley Oval, a seven-wicket defeat to Australia in February 2016.

 

ON TOP OF THE WORLD

Williamson had a fabulous 2020 in Test cricket, despite the international schedule being badly hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The right-hander had the highest average (83) in the format across the previous calendar year out of those players to have had at least four innings, with his knock of 129 in the first Test – combined with Steve Smith's struggles for runs against India – moving him back to the top of the ICC world rankings for Test batsmen.

A career-best score of 251 against West Indies substantially helped his cause. That was his only innings in the series too, as he missed the second Test due to the birth of his first child.

PAKISTAN SET FOR BABAR BOOST

The tourists felt the absence of their captain in the series opener and still almost fought their way to a draw.

Mohammad Rizwan, who was the skipper in the first Test, said Babar was on track for a return, but a decision would have to wait until Sunday.

"He is fine now. He wants to hit some more balls in the nets and we'll decide [on Sunday]," he said, via the New Zealand Herald. "He's a legend and wants to hit some more balls because [on Friday] he batted very well. If he plays, we bat around him. He has a great impact on our team."

Babar, 26, averages 45.44 in 29 Tests for Pakistan, who are aiming to level the series.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- New Zealand will be looking to win a third consecutive multi-game bilateral Test series against Pakistan.
- Pakistan are winless in their past 10 Tests outside their own country (D2, L8). However, their last such victory did come against New Zealand, by an innings and 16 runs (November 2018 in Dubai).
- Tom Latham has scored 579 Test runs at Hagley Oval, 214 more than any other player at the venue and his second most at any ground in the format (696 at Basin Reserve).
- Ross Taylor is 13 away from becoming just the fifth player to score 1,000 runs in Tests between New Zealand and Pakistan. He would be only the second Kiwi to achieve the feat (after Williamson).
- Tim Southee has a bowling average of 19.9 in Tests at Hagley Oval, his best at any home venue. He has picked up five or more wickets in six of his seven appearances at the venue.

Misbah-ul-Haq believes Pakistan will rise to the occasion in the first Test against New Zealand despite the absence of captain Babar Azam and opener Imam-ul-Haq. 

Both players suffered fractured thumbs during training sessions in Queenstown last week and are yet to return to practice. 

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) confirmed on Monday that the duo could return for the second Test, which begins in Christchurch on January 3. 

They will, however, sit out the opener in Mount Maunganui, with Imran Butt added to the 17-man squad and Mohammad Rizwan confirmed as the 33rd captain to lead the team in the longest format. 

The first Test begins on Boxing Day, three days after the final Twenty20 international, with the hosts already 2-0 ahead in that series. 

"It is disappointing to lose the T20I series against a well-settled New Zealand side, who utilised their resources and conditions to their advantage," head coach Misbah said. 

"We need to up-skill and improve our individual and team performances, including in Tuesday's match, and the sooner we get these sorted the better it will be in term of player confidence and team results as 2021 will not be any easier as we have two major events. 

"Contrary to the T20I side, the Test side appears to be pretty organised and we boast some experienced cricketers, both in the batting and bowling departments. With some competitive cricket on the tour now under the belt, I am hoping we will be a better outfit in the longer version of the game. 

"Although it will be nearly two weeks to Babar's injury when the first Test starts, it will be hard on him and the team to play him without any net sessions.  

I remain confident and optimistic that other players will rise to the occasion in Mount Maunganui and use the opportunity to rise to the occasion and put the disappointment of the T20I series behind them."

Pakistan squad for Tests: Mohammad Rizwan (captain for first Test), Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imran Butt, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan, Yasir Shah (Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq not available for first Test).

Jacob Duffy claimed a four-wicket haul on his international debut as New Zealand triumphed in the Twenty20 series opener against Pakistan in Auckland.

With Lockie Ferguson ruled out through injury and Trent Boult absent for the first of three T20 matches between the countries, pace bowler Duffy seized his opportunity to help restrict the tourists to 153-9.

A Pakistan top order missing talismanic captain Babar Azam – ruled out due to a broken thumb – lost four wickets for 20 runs in the opening 25 deliveries of their innings at Eden Park, a terrible start having elected to bat first after winning the toss.

Duffy claimed three of them during a one-sided powerplay, including Abdullah Shafique and Mohammad Hafeez for ducks, as he finished with 4-33. 

Shadab Khan was his final wicket after Pakistan's stand-in skipper had made a top score of 42 from 32 deliveries, while Faheem Ashraf contributed 31. Scott Kuggeleijn also impressed with the ball for New Zealand, finishing with 3-27.

New Zealand's reply saw Martin Guptill fall early, but fellow opener Tim Seifert led the chase with a well-placed 57 that included a solitary six, as well as six fours.

Glenn Phillips (23) and Mark Chapman – who made 34 from just 20 balls – helped the hosts stay on course for victory, though at 129-5 there was a glimmer of hope for Pakistan.

However, James Neesham and skipper Mitchell Santner – filling in for Kane Williamson – finished unbeaten on 15 and 12 respectively to see their team home with five wickets to spare in the penultimate over.

Williamson will be back to lead the Black Caps when the series continues in Hamilton on Sunday, with the third and final contest staged in Napier on December 22.

New Zealand and Pakistan will have to do without their talismanic captains Kane Williamson and Babar Azam when the Twenty20 International series gets under way on Friday.

Black Caps skipper Williamson sits out the first of three T20s following the birth of his first child, but will be available for the remainder of the series.

Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson and Daryl Mitchell also miss the opener at Eden Park, so soon after New Zealand sealed a crushing Test series whitewash of West Indies this week.

Mitchell Santner captains New Zealand for the first match of the series, which Lockie Ferguson misses with a partial stress fracture in his lumbar spine, in Auckland.

A fractured thumb keeps Babar out of the series, so Shadab Khan - who has been struggling with a groin injury - steps up to lead his country.

Seamer Jacob Duffy is set to make his New Zealand debut and will be looking to give another demonstration of the Black Caps' strength in depth ahead of the ICC T20 World Cup next year.

"It's amazing how many people reach out when you sort of get the call-up," Southlander Duffy, Otago's white-ball skipper, said. "No, it's pretty exciting, especially for a small community like that.

"I've really enjoyed growing up there, playing all my cricket there, and a little bit of Hawke Cup cricket and stuff. People down there are really fizzed. I remember they were fizzed up when I first played for Otago, so this is another step-up and it's really cool."

 

MORE FIREWORKS FROM PHILLIPS AND CONWAY?

Glenn Phillips and Devon Conway unsurprisingly retain their place in the New Zealand squad after their heroics in a T20 series-clinching drubbing of the Windies.

Phillips smashed a 46-ball century - the quickest by a New Zealander in T20Is - and Conway blasted 65 not out in 72-run hammering in Mount Maunganui at the end of last month.

Their brutal 183-run stand was a world record for the third wicket in the shortest format at international level.

Phillips also took two catches and affected a run out after making 108 off just 51 balls - hitting eight sixes and 10 boundaries in a devastating knock.

The in-form 24-year-old has since made 136 opening for New Zealand A in a four-day match against their Windies counterparts, so Pakistan's bowlers will not be queueing up to bowl at him

 

PAKISTAN MUST SHOW THEY CAN COPE WITHOUT BABAR 

The absence of Babar is a massive blow for Pakistan, who sealed a T20I whitewash of Zimbabwe last month.

Babar, second in the T20I batting rankings behind England's Dawid Malan, has delivered time again for his country but the tourists will have to show they can cope without him against high-class opposition.

Pakistan fast bowler Haris Rauf knows he will have to offer more than just sheer pace to do damage against the Black Caps.

"I have a clear mindset with my pace and 140+ [kph] is my average speed. But with Waqar Younis [Pakistan bowling coach], I think he is all in for pace, [and he] keeps on empathising [with me] while making me work on my line and length.

"There are so many things I am learning from him, like bowling yorkers using the crease, and he was best at it. I understand these days [with] the kind of cricket being played, I can't be predictable with my pace. You obviously have to keep on evolving with the other stocks. Bowling with pace is okay, but bowling slower ones with different lines are the points of discussion with Waqar. I am learning in practice and applying in games."

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Pakistan have won their last two bilateral T20I series against New Zealand. they are yet to win more consecutive series against the Black Caps in this format
- New Zealand had lost four consecutive T20I matches at Eden Park before beating West Indies in November.
- Pakistan are winless in their last three bilateral series away from home, losing two and drawing one. They had won seven in a row prior to that.
- Martin Guptill has scored 463 runs in T20Is between New Zealand and Pakistan, the most by any player, including four half-centuries – his joint-most against any side in the format (England being the other).
- Mohammad Hafeez has scored 412 runs against New Zealand in T20I cricket, the most by a Pakistan player against any country.

Babar Azam has been named the new Pakistan Test captain.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) confirmed on Tuesday the batsman has taken over from Azhar Ali.

Babar, who is now skipper across all three formats for his country, will first captain his side in the Test series against New Zealand in December and January.

"I feel truly honoured to have been appointed Test captain and join some of the most iconic players who have captained Pakistan in the purest format of the game," he said.

"I can now say with conviction that dreams can come true only if you chase them with honesty, dedication and commitment.

"I am ready and prepared to take up the additional responsibility and the fact which gives me additional confidence that I can do the job is the experience that is available to me in the changing room in the shape of the players and support staff.

"I want to thank Azhar Ali for the way he captained the team in the last season, which was a difficult one, but I know that he will leave no stone unturned in giving his very best to the team."

PCB chairman Ehsan Mani said: "I want to thank Azhar Ali for stepping up last year by captaining the side in what was a historic first home Test series in over a decade. I believe Azhar still has a lot of cricket left in him and Pakistan cricket can continue to make the best use of his experience and knowledge as specialist top-order batsman moving forward.

"Babar Azam was identified at a very young age as a future leader and as part of his progression and development, he was appointed white-ball captain last year. With his consistent performance and leadership skills, he has demonstrated that he is ready to take on the additional responsibilities of a captain.

"As we are looking into the future, it is appropriate that we appoint him the captain now so that he continues to grow stronger with every match. I wish Babar all the best and remain optimistic that he will help Pakistan cricket make an upward movement across all formats not only through his performance but also with his positive attitude and result-oriented approach."

Babar made his Test debut against West Indies in October 2016 and has made five centuries and 15 half-centuries in just 29 matches.

He hit 82 off 55 balls at the top of the order as Pakistan sealed a six-wicket win in the Twenty20 series opener against Zimbabwe last week, following up with 51 as they claimed victory in the second match on Sunday.

Half-centuries from captain Babar Azam and Haider Ali saw Pakistan canter to a series-clinching eight-wicket win over Zimbabwe in the second T20I.

Babar called correctly and asked the tourists to bat in Rawalpindi, on a different surface to the one Pakistan prevailed upon when the teams met on Friday.

The outcome was much the same, with Zimbabwe's innings never truly gaining any momentum after Haris Rauf (3-31) removed openers Brendan Taylor and Chamu Chibhabha inside the first four overs.

Leg-spinner Usman Qadir (3-23) was the pick of the Pakistan attack and his double-strike in the 10th over, accounting for Sikandar Raza (seven) and Wesley Madhevere (24) - bowled and lbw respectively by brilliant googlies - left Chibhabha's men 66-5.

From that point it became a matter of occupying the overs, something they managed thanks in large part to Ryan Burl's anchoring and unbeaten 32, which concluded with a six over midwicket off Wahab Riaz as Zimbabwe reached 134-7.

That never looked likely to be enough to contain Pakistan, even when Fakhar Zaman drove Blessing Muzarabani to mid-on in the second over.

That brought Haider together with Babar and they proceeded to compile 100 for the second wicket in 10.3 overs.

Babar raced to 51 off 27 deliveries before departing next ball to Muzarabani (2-33), impressively backing up his match-winning 82 in the series opener.

Haider, who drove with particular panache off the back foot, saw Pakistan home with a minimum of fuss as he finished unbeaten on 66 off 43 deliveries.

The three-match series concludes in Rawalpindi on Tuesday.   

Captain Babar Azam led the way as Pakistan secured a comfortable six-wicket victory in the Twenty20 series opener against Zimbabwe.

Wesley Madhevere top-scored with 70 as Zimbabwe posted 156-6, having opted to bat first in Rawalpindi on Saturday.

However, Babar - who sits second in the International Cricket Council's T20 batting rankings - made sure the hosts had few issues in their chase, hitting 82 from 55 balls at the top of the order.

The Pakistan skipper managed nine fours and a solitary six as he put on 80 for the third wicket with Mohammad Hafeez - who made 36 - following the dismissals of Fakhar Zaman (19) and Haider Ali (7)

Blessing Muzarabani - Zimbabwe's hero as they won the third and final ODI on Wednesday following a Super Over - dismissed both well-set batsmen, but Pakistan still cruised home with seven deliveries to spare.

Haris Rauf and Wahab Riaz earlier claimed two wickets apiece as the tourists slipped to 87-4 after Brendan Taylor won the toss.

Madhevere led the rebuild thanks to a career-best knock in the format, while Elton Chigumbura - who has announced he will retire at the end of the tour - added 21 in a hurry during the closing overs.

Zimbabwe will look to stay alive in the three-match series when the teams meet again at the same venue on Sunday.

Babar Azam will get a chance to return to the top of the Twenty20 international batting rankings when Pakistan look to maintain a perfect record against Zimbabwe in the three-match series.

Pakistan captain Babar was replaced by England's Dawid Malan as officially the best batsman on the planet in the shortest format in September after he was in the runs against Australia.

Babar has spent a cumulative 774 days as number one across four stretches since January 2018 and is only eight rating points shy of Malan.

Pakistan have won all 11 T20 contests with Zimbabwe and the classy Babar will see three games against the tourists as a golden opportunity to dislodge Malan.

Yet Zimbabwe come into the first match of the series on Saturday on a high from a shock Super Over victory that prevented them from suffering a 3-0 ODI whitewash at the hands of Pakistan.

We use Opta data to preview the series in Rawalpindi.

 

- Pakistan beat Bangladesh in each of their two other T20 matches at home this year. They had suffered three defeats on the spin on their own patch before those victories.

- Zimbabwe have been beaten in nine of their past 13 T20Is in Asia. Three of their four victories came against non-Test playing nations, but they beat Afghanistan in September 2019.

- Brendan Taylor has 878 runs at international level in the shortest format and is looking to join Hamilton Masakadza as the only Zimbabwe batsman to reach the 1,000 mark.

- Sean Williams heads into this contest on the back of scoring a fourth ODI century (118 not out), at this venue in a famous win on Tuesday. He has made 58no and an unbeaten 40 in two of his past three T20 knocks versus Pakistan.

- Shaheen Afridi (23), Imad Wasim (22), Shadab Khan (21) and Haris Rauf (17) had more dot balls than any England bowlers in a drawn T20 series in August and September.

Blessing Muzarabani produced a sensational performance as Zimbabwe avoided an ODI whitewash at the hands of Pakistan with a Super Over victory in Rawalpindi. 

Pakistan already held an unassailable lead in the three-match series after the opening two fixtures, but Muzarabani ensured the tourists have something to celebrate as he starred with the ball. 

Zimbabwe set Pakistan 279 for victory, Sean Williams hitting an unbeaten 118 as Brendan Taylor (56) struck a half-century and Wesley Madhevere (33 off 31) and Sikandar Raza (45 off 36) produced efficient contributions. 

Mohammad Hasnain's 5-26 had helped restrict Zimbabwe but Muzarabani answered in kind, his five-for ensuring Pakistan finished their innings tied on 278-9. 

The key wicket came in the penultimate over, Muzarabani removing home captain Babar Azam, who scored a run-a-ball 125, by drawing an edge with the final delivery of his 10-over allocation. 

Pakistan needed 13 off the 50th over but, minus Babar, could only manage 12, with a final-ball four from Muhammad Musa forcing a Super Over in which Muzarabani proved decisive. 

He took the wickets of Iftikhar Ahmed and Khushdil Shah in the space of four balls to restrict Pakistan to two runs, with Taylor and Raza securing the win with just three balls of Zimbabwe's reply.

 

 

Iftikhar Ahmed's five-wicket haul and a fine display from Babar Azam inspired Pakistan in a dominant six-wicket victory over Zimbabwe to clinch their one-day series after two matches.

Iftikhar (5-40) had not bowled at all in the first ODI – a 26-run win – and his sole prior international wicket in this format came in his 2015 debut against England.

But in the absence of rested paceman Wahab Riaz, who took four wickets in the previous match, the off-spinner was handed the ball on Sunday and took full advantage.

Debutant Muhammad Musa (2-21) also made an early contribution with the dismissal of Craig Ervine, yet it was Iftikhar who intervened each time Zimbabwe started to build momentum.

The 30-year-old took his five wickets in succession, starting with dangermen Brendan Taylor (36) and finishing with Sean Williams (75).

Musa then brought the innings to a close as Carl Mumba's departure saw Zimbabwe all out for 206 in the 46th over, teeing up a routine Pakistan chase.

Tendai Chisoro (2-49) belatedly slowed the hosts as he removed both openers, but that brought Babar to the crease and the Pakistan skipper excelled.

Babar finished unbeaten on 77 off 74 balls, a steady but effective innings that finished with a flourish as he found the long-off fence with 88 balls still remaining.

The captain propelled Pakistan to 208-4 having also earlier helped Haider Ali – another debutant – through his first 29 runs at this level.

Pakistan will be expected to continue their ODI winning streak when Babar Azam's reign starts with a three-match series against Zimbabwe on Friday.

Babar will take charge of his country for the first time in the 50-over format at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, where all three matches will be staged, after succeeding Sarfraz Ahmed.

Chamu Chibhabha has been charged with the task of leading Zimbabwe when ODI cricket returns to Rawalpindi for the first time since 2006.

No fans will be allowed in for the first internationals to take place in Pakistan since the coronavirus outbreak ground sport to a halt. 

Pakistan have their sights set on maximum points in the ICC World Cricket Super League as they bid to secure automatic qualification for the 2023 Cricket World Cup in India.

We use Opta data to preview the series, which will see Douglas Hondo take over as head coach of the tourists after Lalchand Rajput opted against making the trip.

- This is set to be the 13th multi-game men's bilateral ODI series between the two nations. Pakistan have won 11 of those and the other was drawn.

- Pakistan have won 52 of their 57 completed ODIs versus Zimbabwe (T1 L4) and they are on a six-game winning run against them in the 50-over format.

- Zimbabwe have suffered 17 defeats in their 18 ODIs in Pakistan (W1); they have lost both contests at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium.

- The tourists are playing their first international in Pakistan since May 2015. They have not been victorious in any game in the country since recording a seven-wicket Test win back in 1998.

- Pakistan have put together a six-game winning ODI streak. They lost 13 times in 14 matches before this run.

- Zimbabwe are one shy of a 500th international defeat. The tourists have only managed to win 168 games, drawing 28 and securing a tie in nine.

- Fakhar Zaman has scored 515 runs in five ODI innings versus Zimbabwe, averaging 257.5. That is the best rate ever recorded by a batsman against a single opponent in men's ODI cricket (minimum 400 runs).

- No bowler claimed more wickets than Faheem Ashraf (nine) when Pakistan took on Zimbabwe in their last ODI bilateral series, picking those scalps up for just 67 runs.

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