Azam replaces Kohli as fastest to reach 2,000 T20 runs as Pakistan beat Zimbabwe The Pakistan team is led by captain Babar Azam (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Pakistan captain Babar Azam became the fastest batsman to reach 2,000 Twenty20 international runs Sunday, achieving the feat in 52 innings, four fewer than Indian superstar Virat Kohli.
Azam lifted his T20 total to 2,035 runs by making 52 as Pakistan defeated Zimbabwe by 24 runs to win a T20 series 2-1 at Harare Sports Club.
Kohli has scored 3,159 runs in the 20-over format, but it took him 56 innings to pass the 2,000-run landmark.
After Azam and Kohli come Australia skipper Aaron Finch (62 innings) and former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum (66).
Azam won the toss, opted to bat and the tourists made 165-3 in 20 overs as they sought redemption after a shock 19-run loss two days ago.
The batting of Mohammad Rizwan (91 not out) and Azam (52) and career-best bowling from Hasan Ali (4-18) ultimately ensured Pakistan would not suffer the humiliation of losing the series.
Zimbabwe made a bold bid for victory, though, reaching 101 for one after 13 overs before being undone by the loss of three wickets within 15 balls for the addition of just eight runs.
As the Pakistan bowlers tightened their grip, only Brendan Taylor (20) made a meaningful score and the hosts finished on 141-7.
“It was a team effort,” Azam said. “Rizwan and I wanted to take it deep, and I thought we finished very well.
“When I went in to bat, the wicket looked better than the first two games. I want to give Zimbabwe credit, they played brilliantly in the first half of the innings.”
Player of the series Rizwan said: “The ball was coming onto the bat initially, but the ball kept stopping later on.
– ‘Hard wicket’ –
“We wanted to stay out there because we thought it was a hard wicket to get adjusted on. Babar and my plan was whoever hangs around has to stay there till the end.”
Ali, who was voted player of the match, said: “The way their openers played was brilliant, but we felt we were in control if we got one wicket. The ball wasn’t really coming on to the bat.”
Zimbabwe captain Sean Williams was upbeat despite the series loss.
“We’ve got some talented young batsmen like Wesley Madhevere and a good group of bowlers. In the middle period, we had to attack the spinners more aggressively, but we’re getting there.”
It was the second successive T20 series success for the tourists after beating South Africa 3-1 before travelling to Harare.
Rizwan cracked three sixes and five fours as Pakistan exceeded the expectations of Azam, who believed it would be a challenge to surpass 140 on what he considered a bowler-friendly pitch.
After the loss of Sharjeel Khan for 18 off the last ball of the fourth over, Rizwan and Azam put on 126 for the second wicket before the captain was out in the final over.
Medium pacer Luke Jongwe, the star of the shock Zimbabwe victory, was once again the most impressive bowler with figures of 3-37.
Needing to score at a rate of 8.3 runs an over to overtake Pakistan and achieve a historic first bilateral T20 series victory, Zimbabwe began promisingly.
Unperturbed by the loss of Tarisai Musakanda for 10, fellow opener Wesley Madhevere and Tadiwanashe Marumani speedily compiled a 65-run second-wicket stand.
But when Marumani (35) was bowled by Mohammad Hasnain, Pakistan gained the initiative and Madhevere (59) and Regis Chakabva (0) soon followed to the dressing room.