Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
In a series in which Zimbabwe have offered little competition, this might be the nadir. On a turgid, attritional day for the hosts, Pakistan piled the runs up high with Abid Ali scoring an unbeaten double century on the second day of the second Test in Harare, combining for a 169-run partnership with No. 9 Nauman Ali, who scored a brisk 97 of his own.
It allowed Pakistan to amass 510 before Babar Azam declared, leaving Zimbabwe with an uncomfortable final session to negotiate. But that they didn’t, with Brendan Taylor’s side losing four frontline batsmen in 30 overs and ending up trailing by 458 runs overnight.
It might be easy to forget now but both sides claimed a share of the spoils in the morning session. At that point, the hosts kept their hopes of restricting Pakistan below 400 alive with wickets at regular intervals, and were just three strikes away from wrapping up the innings. Pakistan’s nightwatchman Sajid Khan frustrated Zimbabwe for the first hour, but saw his stay come to an end thanks to a splendid diving catch from Regis Chakabva, whose wicketkeeping has been under scrutiny at times on this tour.
Mohammad Rizwan combined for an equally handy partnership with the ever-present Abid, while also speeding things up. There were a few whipped boundaries through the off side, and the pair might have carried through to lunch before Rizwan tried to target Tendai Chisoro over mid-on. A horrible miscue found the fielder, and tailender Hasan Ali nicked off to Luke Jongwe in the following over.
Zimbabwe might have smelled blood then, but it was Pakistan who landed all the punches in the session that followed. After four attritional sessions of the hosts ensuring they stayed within touching distance of Pakistan, Abid and Nauman wrenched the game out of their hands in a middle session that devastated Zimbabwe’s chances. If they imagined they would come out after lunch and mop up the tail, the two batters put paid to such fanciful notions, hurtling through the gears as the total began to swell.
With Zimbabwe supposedly well into the Pakistan tail, there was expectation that the more able batter in Abid would take a more progressive approach through the middle session, but it was Nauman who broke the shackles more regularly. He targeted the spinners from time to time, awaiting deliveries in the slot to launch over long-on as five of Pakistan’s six sixes came off his bat. Once he got to his half-century – with a boundary to square leg – he began to lay waste to the Zimbabwe attack.
Jongwe was smashed for 17 in that over, before Milton Shumba found himself going for 18 in the following one. It seemed no sooner than Abid’s double century had come up that Nauman was eyeing three figures of his own. Blink and you would miss it, but by tea, the scorecard had Nauman single digits away from a hundred.
It might be a tad unfair to say Abid didn’t adjust the tempo of his innings over five sessions, but he continued to prioritise solidity and assuredness over thrift. It is hard to fault the formula that has ground Zimbabwe into the dust for nearly two days, and when Abid pulled a long hop to cow corner to bring up 200, there was a sense of inevitability about it. He might have batted the whole Test without anyone being able to snare him, but when Nauman lazily lifted his foot up in the air just after tea, Chakabva cannily whipped off the bails to have him stumped, leaving the left-armer three short of a remarkable hundred.
If Pakistan’s total suggested the pitch might be a decent one for the batters, Zimbabwe went about dispelling that notion effectively. The first wicket to fall was pure misfortune, with the umpire misjudging the line of a ball that was missing Tarisai Musakanda’s leg stump, giving Tabish Khan his first Test wicket. Tabish, whose debut was the focus of much scrutiny, was tidy overall without quite being penetrative, with that role taken up most effectively by Hasan.
Zimbabwe looked to hunker down and shut shop for much of the first session, but Hasan was finding swing at pace, and one that seared back in off a length ripped past Kevin Kasuza and sent his stumps tumbling. He had hung around at the crease for 43 deliveries without looking up to much while managing just four runs.
Taylor looked to take a more proactive approach, getting a couple of boundaries away early, but Zimbabwe needed a long-term survival strategy. When the Zimbabwe captain pushed at one from Shaheen Afridi from around the wicket, any hopes of him being the one to lead that resistance was extinguished.
Zimbabwe were in freefall by now, and there was still time enough for Sajid to trap Milton Shumba in front as the noose began to tighten. Zimbabwe have been suffocated by now, and you would expect the knockout blow isn’t far away either. (ESPN CRICINFO)