By BV Swagath
Minnows Zimbabwe surprised everyone by clinching the first day’s honours of the opening Test at Harare against Pakistan. But for a 67-run stand for the 9th wicket, Pakistan were in for a major embarrassment after being asked to bat first by Zimbabwe’s stand-in Skipper Hamilton Masakadza. The visitors ended Day 1 at a slightly respectable score of 249 for 9 in 89.5 overs.
The final session saw Zimbabwe put the visitors on the mat taking three wickets for just 26 runs in less than 14 overs. First to depart was Keeper Adnan Akmal (18) inside edging a cut shot off Tendai Chatara onto his stumps early after the Tea Break. By now, the Zimbabweans were even managing to reverse swing the old ball and Shingirai Masakadza using it effectively trapped left-handed Abdur Rehman lbw for 7.
The final nail in the coffin for Zimbabwe came from the impressive Shingirai who lured the well set Azhar Ali into an expansive cover drive and got him edging a reversing outswinger to second slip. Zimbabwe for once had got their basics right as far as the catching and ground fielding was concerned. Azhar Ali did score 78 (from 185 balls with 9 fours) but on his own couldn’t take the game away from the hosts at any point of time.
Zimbabwe having reduced the visitors to 182 for 8 were unlucky not to wrap up things as the pair of Saeed Ajmal and Junaid Khan got the better of their bowlers. The 9th wicket pair were lucky not to edge several good deliveries from the second new ball. Eventually, Junaid Khan got out nicking a big shot off Tinashe Panyangara to the keeper in what was the penultimate delivery of the day’s play. Junaid scored 17 from 53 balls while off-spinner Saeed Ajmal has hit his way to a crucial 49* from 64 balls with 6 fours and a six.
Update at Tea on Day 1: Zimbabwe with their steady line and length bowling have managed to Pakistan under pressure at 156 for 5 in 58 overs. The visitors have got themselves in a shell and as a result find themselves in a soup. Azhar Ali, who had come in at no.3, is holding the innings together with his knock of 63* which has taken him as many as 151 balls!
Pakistan lost only two wickets in the afternoon session but they couldn’t break free against a tidy bowling attack. Propser Utseya bowling with good flight and dip got the two wickets of Misbah and Asad Shafiq. First to perish was Misbah (53 from 94 balls with 7 fours) who dragged a big shot to Sibanda at short mid wicket. The Pakistani Skipper added 93 runs for the 4th wicket with Azhar.
Asad Shafiq, who came in at no.6, tried to break the shackles with a big shot off Utseya but could only drag an inside edge to a cleverly placed leg slip. Pakistan had just 132 runs on the board when they lost their fifth wicket in the 51st over. At Tea, Azhar Ali is having the company of Wicket Keeper Adnan Akmal, who is on 17*.
Update at Lunch on Day 1: Pakistan overcame early hurdles to finish the morning session on Day 1 of the First Test at Harare on a steady 74 for 3 in 29 overs. Azhar Ali is batting solidly on 24* (from 64 balls) in the company of Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq who has moved to 31* (from 46 balls).
It was a bad start for Pakistan with pacer Tendai Chatara getting one to move away with bounce to force Mohammad Hafeez to edge him to second slip in the 7th over. The other opener Khurram Manzoor, who is on a comeback, lasted 38 balls before he was trapped lbw on the backleg by a big inducker from Tinashe Panyangara in the 12th over.
Veteran Younis Khan got bowled by Panyangara in the 14th over when his forward defensive shot rolled back onto the stumps off the splice of his blade. Zimbabwe had Pakistan in trouble at 27 for 3 but failed to make further inroads after that.
Toss and Teams: Zimbabwe led by Hamilton Masakadza have won the toss and asked Pakistan to bat first in the opening Test at Harare. Brendan Taylor, the original Skipper has taken leave with the birth of his son on Monday night. Another player Sean Williams has boycotted this Test because of the non-payment of fees from the Zimbabwean Board. Sikandar Raza gets to make his Test debut.
Pakistan have gone in with two left-arm quicks in Junaid Khan and Rahat Ali along with two spinners – Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman.
The pitch at Harare is expected to aid the spinners as the match progresses and in the mornings, there will be assistance for the seamers.
Zimbabwe: Vusi Sibanda, Tino Mawoyo, Hamilton Masakadza (C), Sikandar Raza, Malcolm Waller, Richmond Mutumbami (WK), Elton Chigumbura, Prosper Utseya, Shingirai Masakadza, Tinashe Panyangara, Tendai Chatara
Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez, Khurram Manzoor, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq (C), Asad Shafiq, Adnan Akmal (WK), Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, Rahat Ali