A tri-series that has given something for everyone
The thrilling triangular series in Zimbabwe has provided some great summertime entertainment courtesy of Australia’s new talent, Pakistan’s PSL finds and Zimbabwe’s young guns! Although the weather has been quite chilly in Zimbabwe, and the visitors have been cosily wrapped in blankets as they sit at the pavilion, cheering their teammates on, the teams have not failed to captivate the cricket fans that are watching the series.
Under Sarfraz Ahmed’s captaincy, Pakistan has won nineteen matches and lost only three. Similarly, Australia has won eight of its recent T20I matches and lost only one. Both teams are contenders for the number one spot on ICC’s T20I rankings, and although Pakistan claims the spot currently, it is very close between Pakistan, India, Australia and England.
As of the 6th of July and according to ICC rankings, Pakistan has 131 points and Australia has 124 points. Having beaten Zimbabwe in the final round-robin game, Australia know that even if they beat Pakistan in the final, they can't overtake Pakistan and claim the top spot. The best they can hope for is a win that will take them to the second spot and within two points off Pakistan.
Prior to the start of the series, they harboured hopes of becoming the No.1 ranked T20I team but that will now not happen irrespective of what happens in the final T20I between India and England and also the final of the tri-series.
Irrespective of what happens in the final between Australia and Pakistan, the No.1 T20I team in the world will be Pakistan but a defeat might reduce the gap between the No.1 ranked team and the side in second.
Zimbabwe have had to field a depleted team as few of their star players have opted to miss the tri-series tournament: Sikander Raza, Graeme Cremer, Sean Wiliams and Brendan Taylor. Nevertheless, the unpredictable underdogs put up a great fight in their encounters, especially in the penultimate game of the series against Australia.
On Friday, Zimbabwe posed a target of 152 for the already-qualified Australia, with Solomon Mire contributing an impressive 63. Even though the target was a below par score, Zimbabwe’s Blessing Muzarabani kept Australia in check by taking 3 wickets while only conceding 21 runs. Australia’s position seemed somewhat uncertain, however, the quick-fire 56 off 38 by Maxwell, supported by a 48 off 42 by Travis Head guided Australia to a win with a ball to spare.
This series has given birth to quite a few star players from each team.
Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi, an 18-year-old who has discovered during the PSL, took three crucial wickets in his first match of this tri-series: getting rid of Finch for 16 runs, Maxwell for 10 and Short for 28. Shadab Khan didn’t disappoint either, with his consistent performances taking a wicket in almost all matches and contributed a team highest of 29 off 25 in the only match Pakistan lost. Fakhar Zaman was another great asset to the team with his astounding scores of 61, 47 and 73, all of which contributed to Pakistan coming out on top in the respective game.
Australia’s Aaron Finch mesmerized everyone with his 172 off just 76, the match that Australia went on to win by a 100 runs! Billy Stanlake stunned fans with his incredible figures of 4/8 against Pakistan. It was that performance that set up Australia's nine-wicket win over Pakistan and ended their winning streak. The Aussies have put up great performances in all their matches, especially considering the fact that they are playing with a relatively new team and didn't have some of their best players.
Overall, the tri-series has proven to be an entertaining spectacle with the winner to be decided on Sunday as the No.1 ranked T20I side Pakistan take on the No.3 ranked Australia. With a few records being made and some breathtaking performances, all teams have positives to take from the tournament to their next series.
The hosts have shown immense valour in their encounters, and although they couldn’t bag a win, their achievements in all matches showed great potential and drive which will be further displayed in their 5-match ODI series against Pakistan starting on the 13th of July.