Pakistan look for fourth straight win over dispirited Zimbabwe

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You might as well bring out all the clichés. If this was a boxing match, the referee would indeed have stopped it by now. If it was a tennis match, the chair umpire would have called “game, set, match” and pronounced it a straight-sets victory for Pakistan. But this is cricket, after all, and both sides must play through to the bitter end in the upcoming two games where the only potential outcome is further embarrassment and farce.

After looking at Zimbabwe’s squad following the second ODI, it was hard to see what changes they could make to try and make this series more competitive. Nothing jumped out. After the third ODI, it wasn’t hard to see why. Zimbabwe rung the changes, perhaps for no other reason than something had to be done. The outcome was devastating. Zimbabwe plunged new depths, getting bowled out for 67, with Pakistan chasing it down in under 10 overs. The average T20 game lasts longer.

It isn’t clear by now what Pakistan can learn in the last two games. They could, of course, try out new players, but would how they perform really be an indication of their talent or the inadequacy of the hosts? Will the young, inexperienced Zimbabwe side thrown into the deep end at this hour of crisis suffer scarring due to the crushing nature of the defeats?

One good thing to come out of this, however, may be that it hastens both parties in Zimbabwe to the negotiating table. Zimbabwe Cricket would have seen the lack of depth to their international side, and realised they can ill-afford yet another player exodus, particularly when so much was invested to secure the return of cricketers like Brendan Taylor. The players, on the other hand, may not like becoming scapegoats for the shambolic performance of the national side this series, and could be more partial to agreeing a settlement.

Pakistan, on the other hand, just need to keep the intensity up; this is a test of professionalism as much as anything else. Playing against a side so vastly inferior to their own, ensuring standards remain high and concentration doesn’t dip can present a real challenge. In the face of scarce resistance from the opposition, a mindset of complacency might be the only hazard they’d need to guard against.