Zimbabwe 132 (Chakabva 33, Hasan Ali 5-27) and 220 for 9 (Chakabva 80, Taylor 49, Shaheen 4-45, Nauman 5-86) trail Pakistan 510 for 8 dec (Abid Ali 215, Azhar Ali 126) by 158 runs
PAKISTAN are on the cusp of a 2-0 series win after regular strikes in the final session left the visitors just one wicket away from wrapping up an innings victory.
On a day that began with a magnificent spell of fast bowling by Hasan Ali, culminating in yet another five-wicket haul, Zimbabwe folded meekly in the first innings, and were forced to follow on.
The second time around, there were flashes of resistance disappointingly absent nearly all series, with an 80 from Regis Chakabva and Brendan Taylor’s flamboyant 30-ball 49 guaranteeing the hosts surpassed 200 for the first time this series. Nauman Ali, though, was the chief architect of Zimbabwe’s downfall in the second, taking five wickets of his own, before Zimbabwe’s tenth wicket pair dug in to ensure the game would go to a fourth day.
In the morning session, Hasan stormed through the middle and lower order. That helped skittle the home side out for 132, handing Pakistan a 378-run lead and the opportunity to enforce the follow-on.
The fast bowler has been in spectacular form since his return to Test cricket this year, with 19 Test wickets in his last four innings. He would make that 24 in five after a stirring performance in the morning, demonstrating complete command over line, length and swing as the Zimbabwean batters crumbled in front of him. Tendai Chisoro was undone by one that moved away from the bat on a length, with Imran Butt taking a sharp low catch in the slips.
The catching behind the wickets was another running theme, and it brought Hasan his next breakthrough. This time, it was a short delivery that grew big on Chakabva, requiring Abid Ali to leap to grab hold at first slip. Luke Jongwe would be undone shortly after with a sublime inswinger, the batter shouldering arms as it came back in to hit the stumps.
Roy Kaia, who had been dealt a painful blow on the knee that forced him off on the first day, came back on to bat with a noticeable limp, and while he accounted well for himself, he even had the chance to extract a bit of revenge.
He pinged a short delivery to Abid Ali at short leg, with the ball smashing into his elbow. Abid was the man who had forced Kaia off in similar circumstances on the first day, and while he lumbered off clutching his funny bone, the Pakistani was unlikely to be seeing the lighter side.
Zimbabwe showed more application in their final innings of the series than any other, stalling Pakistan’s charge towards a 2-0 series victory, the top order putting up dogged resistance. Chakabva, arguably the hosts’ most solid batsman across these Tests, was the spearhead, first in defence, then in attack, as he successfully saw off the new ball before moving up a gear, taking on the Pakistan bowlers as he brought up a brisk, convincing half-century.
The contrast between the first hour and second was stark, with Zimbabwe bogged down in sheer survival mode early on. At one point, they managed just 15 runs in 13 overs as Kasuza hunkered down, much like he had in the first innings where he managed just four in 43 deliveries. But once Chakabva decided to take on Sajid Khan in the 18th over, the shackles seemed to come off all of a sudden.
Sajid was thumped for 17, and Kasuza joined the fun shortly after, a straight drive over Nauman’s head for six arguably the shot of the Test. Nauman had an exquisite comeback, though, dragging his line back to one Kasuza looked to go after in the same vein. He failed to get to the pitch, and the ball took out his middle stump to nip a budding second-wicket partnership.
When Taylor came out next, he took the attack to the bowlers from the outset. His knock involved him hitting repeatedly through the air, often close to where fielders stood, relying on pinpoint precision to keep him safe.
Nauman was lofted for a pair of neatly timed airborne drives, while a flick of the wrists off Tabish Khan brought him his first six. Before long, there was something of a swagger to Taylor’s game, and he had raced along to 49 off 30, looking all set to bring up the fastest Test half-century by a Zimbabwean.
Misfortune struck, though, with the umpire adjudging a tickle down leg side had come off the bat. Taylor’s hands initially indicated it had clipped the hipbone, but when the umpire raised his finger, the hand went to his head in despair. Zimbabwe’s most enterprising partnership had been broken after 79 runs, and the resistance to follow was feeble.
Chakabva continued to motor along, refusing to let the runscoring come to a halt, or allow any bowler to settle. Few would have begrudged him a hundred, but his approach carried inevitable risk, and when a swipe off Nauman caught the outside edge, Babar Azam held on to a sharp catch.
The lower order and middle order has proved Zimbabwe’s been weakness time and again, and once more, there was little resistance. Nauman continued to chip away as the victory drew nearer, completing his own five-fer. Pakistan opted for the extra half hour to try and force a result tonight, but Blessing Muzarabani stuck in alongside Jongwe before the umpires brought out the light metre and called a halt to proceedings. Zimbabwe still trail by 158 runs, and when the players come back out tomorrow, the proceedings are likely to be mere formalities. -Cricinfo