Zimbabwe betrayed their rustiness at the Test level, undoing 10 sessions of hard-earned parity by frittering eight second-innings wickets in 27,3 overs to leave Pakistan sniffing victory in Bulawayo.
Pakistan’s offspinners — Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez — were always going to be a factor on a strip dusting up after three days of inactivity, but Zimbabwe’s nervous shot-making contributed to their downfall.
That the match did not end on the fourth day was down to a gutsy ninth-wicket stand worth 66, between Tatenda Taibu and Kyle Jarvis.
Their effort highlighted just how poorly the top order had fared on a pitch that was not the minefield that their capitulation made it out to be.
Zimbabwe finished the day effectively 81 for 8 and Pakistan will doubtless be reminded of their shambolic defeat in Sydney when Australia jail-broke from a similar situation in 2009.
But against this inexperienced bunch, they are still well in control.
The draw still seemed the likeliest outcome when the third innings got underway, though Ray Price had shown that the wicket had some life it in.
Zimbabwe’s hopes would have been bolstered by the fact that they had somehow survived Ajmal’s doosra in the first innings, despite not picking too many of them. Today, however, the mere threat of the doosra proved their undoing.
Vusi Sibanda exited even before Ajmal made an appearance, to his tendency to pull with little regard for length.
It wasn’t a particularly short ball from Aizaz Cheema, but Sibanda hauled it meekly to mid-on.
Ajmal then took over, removing two of the three batsmen most likely to resist. Tino Mawoyo had prodded several times inside the line in the first innings as the doosra left him.
This time, he shuffled across in an attempt to cover the doosra, leaving his leg stump prone to the offbreak. Brendan Taylor tried to negate the variations by reaching well out and sweeping, but he was still beaten by the turn and trapped in front.
Three balls later, Hamilton Masakadza inside-edged Cheema onto the stumps even as he looked to leave the ball.
Hafeez then tormented the lower half with the minimally turning offbreak, a weapon that had worked well for him in the West Indies.
He snuck a slider onto Crag Ervine’s pads to leave Zimbabwe reeling at 45 for 5.
Taibu was firm, but Hafeez kept striking at the other end as the tail seemed to mistake him for Muttiah Muralitharan. —Cricinfo