Bulawayo: Pakistan scrambled a five-run victory over Zimbabwe at Queens Sports Club in the first of three one-day internationals here on Thursday.
That was the official result, but the reality is that Zimbabwe lost it in the final over when they needed 12 runs to win but made only seven.
It could hardly have been closer as both sides struggled against good and varied bowling all day.
Winning the toss, Pakistan went into bat first and made 247 runs, somewhat below their expectations on a slow but reliable batting wicket.
Zimbabwe, losing fewer wickets in the early stages, looked to have it wrapped up during the middle period.
But two excellent overs from Saeed Ajmal in the latter critical stages that conceded only five runs left Zimbabwe with too much to do.
The story is told by Zimbabwe’s final run-in.
They needed 125 runs from 20 overs, 74 from 10 overs, 42 from 40 balls, when they appeared to have the match well in hand, 25 from 18 balls, 22 from 12 and finally 12 from the last six.
Elton Chigumbura, returning from a knee injury, was going well in the final stages but just could not get the runs needed at the end.
Pakistan lost Imrun Farhat in the first over of the day but Younis Khan struck 78 in 72 balls to steady the tourists.
Misbah ul-Haq weighed in with 54 in a partnership of 60 for the fourth wicket.
The Akmal brothers, Umar and Adnan, made 36 and 27 respectively but Adnan’s wild and fruitless swipes cost Pakistan quite a few runs.
Their 247-7 total did not seem to be enough and the Pakistanis were certainly stifled in general by consistent Zimbabwe bowling, which was mainly spin and medium pace.
For Zimbabwe, in reply Vusi Sibanda made 73 but the main performer for the home team was Brendan Taylor with 84, recovering from a run of low scores.
Tatenda Taibu made 26 in his usual brisk manner and Chigumbura, who might have become match-winner with big hitting early on, could not maintain the necessary momentum.
Aizaz Cheema was the most successful bowler with 3-36 and it was he who saw Pakistan through in the end by conceding just five runs in the final over.
Man of the match was named as Younis Khan.
The Pakistan tour now moves to Harare for the remaining two ODIs and two Twenty20 matches.