KARACHI: Pakistan women’s national cricket team arrived here in Harare on Thursday evening on their first-ever international tour to the country.
Over the course of their stay, the Javeria Khan-led side will play the hosts in three 50-over matches and as many T20Is at the Harare Sports Club as part of their preparations for the all-important ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifiers later in the year.
The two teams were scheduled to play five matches, but the addition of another T20I will serve as an opportunity for them to feature in another competitive match.
Pakistan arrived in Zimbabwe after completing a tour of South Africa in which they played the hosts in three ODIs and three T20Is. Though, the hosts won both series, the tourists gave South Africa a run for their money as almost every match went down to the wire.
South Africa won the ODIs by three, 13 and 32 runs margins. They also won the first two T20Is by eight wickets and 18 runs before Javeria, returning from injury, sealed the last T20I with a half-century for her side.
Reflecting on the tour, Javeria Khan said: “We were expected to be challenged on this tour as playing in South Africa has always been a tough proposition for the visiting sides. Though the results did not go in our favour, we played competitive cricket and had some fine individual performances, which augurs well for us in the long-term, especially with the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifiers coming up later this year.”
Pakistan’s tour to South Africa marked their first international assignment in the post-Covid-19 era. The last they played international cricket was during the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia in early 2020.
They are the only women’s team to tour two countries for international series since the game resumed after the Covid-19 outbreak. This arrangement perfectly aligns with the PCB’s strategy of keeping the country’s elite women cricketers engaged, which along with providing more opportunities to them will help in the growth of the women’s game.
The PCB organized a skills and conditioning camp for 27 elite cricketers in October in Karachi after which a seven-match National Triangular T20 Women’s Cricket Championship was held in Rawalpindi. Ahead of their departure for South Africa, the cricketers remained engaged in a 21-day-long camp in Karachi.
Looking ahead to the Zimbabwe tour, head coach David Hemp said: “There have been some positives – both individually and collectively – upon which we will be building on in Zimbabwe and future series. The girls fought hard and played good, competitive cricket in chunks but struggled to get over the line, which we can overcome with more competitive cricket that the tour of Zimbabwe brings us.
“This is a young and energetic side which has some impressive players emerging who possess the desired talent.
“The team arrived on South African shores without their leading batter and captain, Bismah Maroof, and played two matches without their most-experienced batter Javeria Khan. This provided opportunities to youngsters to come to the fore.
“Ayesha Naseem has impressed with her batting skills and Fatima Sana has shown promise with the new ball in her hand. Kainat was making her return to the national side after being out for over a year and she was the highest run-getter for us in T20Is. She has made a decent comeback and shown the promise of cementing her place in the side.
“All-rounder Aliya Riaz ended the ODI series as the highest run-getter with 136 runs from three matches and Diana Baig was the leading wicket-taker with nine wickets. Both – along with other players – recorded their best individual performances. Anam Amin was instrumental in containing runs with the new-ball in T20Is.
“Javeria scored her career’s ninth half-century in the last T20I upon her return to the team, albeit not fully recovered from her finger injury, which speaks about the courage and determination these players have to serve the team.
“It is important that we build on our win in the third T20I in the six games that lie ahead in Zimbabwe.”