Imam-ul-Haq scored a fine 128, guiding Pakistan to 308 for 7. © Getty Images

Imam-ul-Haq scored a fine 128, guiding Pakistan to 308 for 7. © Getty Images

Imam-Ul-Haq came up with a knock his uncle and Pakistan great Inzamam-Ul-Haq would be proud of as the 22-year-old carved Zimbabwe’s bowling down to a toothpick and helped set up Pakistan’s 201-run win in the first One-Day International in Bulawayo on Friday (July 13).

The stylish opener smashed 128 from 134 balls with eleven fours to power Pakistan to 308 for 7 in 50 overs before Pakistan’s skilled bowling unit, lead by Shadab Khan (4/32), bundled the hosts out for 107 in 35 overs.

Playing a second-string side, owing to a payment dispute and injuries, Zimbabwe didn’t have a good run during the recently held triangular series involving Pakistan and Australia. Unless they upped the ante, Zimbabwe weren’t expected to give Pakistan a run for their money in the five-game series.

Much to the dismay of the home fans, that’s exactly what unfolded in the opener as they looked far out of their comfort zone from the time Hamilton Masakadza, the Zimbabwe skipper, won the toss and opted to field first.

Pakistan’s openers – Imam and Fakhar Zaman – added 113 runs from little over 24 overs before the latter fell to Liam Roche for 60. With Imam going strong, all the non-strikers had to do was rotate strike, and they did so with ease, save for Asif Ali (the debutant).

While Babar Azam (30) and Shoiab Malik (22) slipped into second-fiddle roles quite comfortably, Ali made the most of the solid start with a smashing 46 from 25 balls with four fours and a couple of sixes. That said, the middle-order trio would be disappointed that it didn’t make the most of the chance to add to individual tallies against a bowling as meek.

After Imam’s dismissal to Blessing Muzarabani in the 46th over, Pakistan saw a drop in their run rate, and yet they managed to cross the 300-run mark without so much as breaking a sweat.

Tendai Chatara and Donald Tiripano, who bagged two wickets apiece, were partly responsible for restricting Pakistan, who at one stage threatened to get to 350.

In response, Zimbabwe’s innings aptly reflected their state of mind. Zimbabwe, who suffered even at the hands of Afghanistan in the previous bilateral series, weren’t ready for the challenge Usman Khan (2/21), Faheem Ashraf (2/14) and Shadab Khan (4/32) were to throw at them.

They fell by the wayside rather timidly, barring a fighting 32 not out from Ryan Murray at the Queens Sports Club.

The second ODI will be played at the same venue on July 16.