Let not the threatening regularity of ODI double-hundreds sour it for Fakhar Zaman. In the middle of an unreal purple patch, the 28-year-old razed through a sorry Zimbabwean attack in the fourth ODI in Bulawayo on Friday (July 20), going past Saeed Anwar’s monumental 194 against India in the process to deliver a modern cricketing timestamp for Pakistan. And together with Imam-ul-Haq, Zaman helped rack up 304 runs for the first wicket, now the best ever opening stand in ODIs.
Zaman’s 210 not out came off 156 balls, which included 24 fours and 5 sixes. But it didn’t always start that way. As unbelievable as it sounds in hindsight, given how quick Zaman was with the run-scoring, he didn’t have strike for the first three overs of the innings. But once he did, taking his good ol’ time to settle with only two boundaries from the first 20 balls he faced, Zaman went into overdrive.
By the time Zaman hit a fifty, which came off 51 balls in the 18th over, he was well past Imam, who just had 37 to show. Together the duo went on to make 304 for the first wicket, which alongside being the highest first-wicket stand in ODIs is also the fourth-highest partnership for any wicket in the format.
Zaman’s hundred arrived off 92 balls in the 32nd over, his third ODI hundred flattering to deceive how he now had charts for brains, seeing the ball the best he’s done all day. And the proof arrived a ball later, when he launched Masakadza over cow corner. “Into the trees,” was how Cricbuzz’s ball-by-ball commentary described the shot.
And come the next over, when Zaman scorched three consecutive boundaries, the bowler Blessing Muzarabani, and Zimbabwe in particular, knew that they were a reluctant part of something very special. And so it went on to be, launching a Pakistan batsman for the first time in the elite 200 club alongside stalwarts like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Chris Gayle and Martin Guptill.
In the middle of a ruthless flagellation, Masakadza struck for Zimbabwe. Imam, after a gorgeous 113 off 122 balls – his third ODI hundred – mistimed a slog to deep midwicket, ushering to the crease Asif Ali, who hit his first ball for a boundary to presage what was to come. An unbeaten fifty off 22 balls followed, which in a way allowed the luxury of nervousness to Zaman, who got to the double hundred with a loft over cover.
Tendai Chisoro was the best bowler for Zimbabwe, conceding just 56 in his 10 overs in an innings where runs were scored at eight per over. But it’s a tall chance for Zimbabwe, who will have to score their last match’s score three times over. And then some.
Brief Scores: Pakistan 399/1 in 50 overs (Fakhar Zaman 210*, Imam-ul-Haq 113; Wellington Masakadza 1-78) vs Zimbabwe