Shoaib Malik's calm influence helped Pakistan finish the game in control    AFP
Shoaib Malik’s calm influence helped Pakistan finish the game in control AFP

Pakistan, coming into the third and final One-Day International (ODI) against Zimbabwe, were under pressure. Languishing at No. 9 in the ICC ODI Team Rankings, Pakistan were facing a chance of a series loss at the hands of Zimbabwe, Bangladesh had done that not so long ago. Zimbabwe had the perfect start but Pakistan provided the perfect finish to ensure they saved themselves from the blushes. Nikhil Popat looks at the talking points from the series decider. CRICKET SCORECARD: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan 2015, 3rd ODI at Harare

Toss and team selection: No team had won a game chasing in the series so far, Pakistan themselves suffered a collapse and lost the second one-dayer in controversial circumstances. But Pakistan, still elected to field and the decision if made for a dry surface was made to look more ridiculous when they dropped Yasir Shah, their best spinner. The same bowler had taken a six-wicket haul in the first match and batted well in the second game with Shoaib Malik, but he was dropped. With Azhar Ali missing the game, Pakistan had Sarfraz Ahmed as captain. Cricket updates: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan, 3rd ODI at Harare

Richmond Mutumbami s calculated assault: Richmond Mutumbami was promoted up the order in place of Hamilton Masakadza, and he started slowly. But as the innings progressed, Mutumbami started to grow in confidence and ensured that the runs kept flowing. He though, saw Zimbabwe collapse from the other end but he registered his second ODI fifty but he too could not get his team to a par total on this deck. Read: Pakistan thrash Zimbabwe by 7 wickets in 3rd ODI; win series 2-1

Bilal Asif s spin web: Zimbabwe were sitting pretty at 100 for one when skipper Sarfraz called on Bilal Asif to bowl. He had scored a duck on his ODI debut and had a poor second one-dayer. Things though worked in his favour as he troubled the Zimbabwe batsmen with his off spin. Asif ran through the Zimbabwe middle-order and his five broke the back of the hosts. From 100 for 1 at a stage, Zimbabwe were bundled out for a score of 161, Asif finished with figures of 10-1-25-5! Read: Zimbabwe need serious focus on their batting for long term success

Shoaib Malik s finish: Shoaib Malik has had a fantastic comeback to his ODI career. In 2015, he has had a golden run, in the 11 games that he has played; he has scored 500 runs at an average of exactly 100. His strike rate too has been a brilliant 114.41. When he came out to bat, Pakistan had just lost the wicket of Ahmed Shehzad. Life was not that easy for the batsmen as Pakistan were slow with the Zimbabwe spinners bowling well. Malik came in and made the most of form, settling in. He took time to get in and then just went about his work in a professional manner, scoring a 28-ball 34 being the only batsmen to be scoring at a strike rate of over 120 in the game.

(Nikhil Popat is a diehard cricket enthusiast and a PotterHead till the end of time. He can be followed on Twitter @CricCrazyNIKS)