Pakistan tighten grip on contest with steady acceleration in afternoon session
Lunch Pakistan 261 for 4 (Fawad 50*, Rizwan 13*) lead Zimbabwe 176 by 84 runs
Following the turgidity of the first session, the events of the second seemed positively slapdash. Pakistan raced along at more than three runs an over while Donald Tiripano got himself on a hat-trick at one point. Imran Butt fell nine runs short of a hundred, Fawad Alam got to a half-century and Babar Azam lasted just one delivery, his first golden duck in Test cricket. All this while, Pakistan’s grip over the Test match grows ever tighter, and with the lead stretching to 84 with six wickets still in hand, Zimbabwe are getting closer to being batted out of this contest.
The second session appeared to be a chance for Azhar Ali and Butt to kick on after lunch, but Zimbabwe enjoyed the better of the first half hour. Azhar was undone by the surprise of extra bounce from Tiripano, with gully pouching a straightforward catch. Much more notably, Babar, in his first away Test as captain, fell to the most transparent of traps. Mid-on was brought up close as Tiripano bowled straight, inducing a drive which went to Roy Kaia, stationed there for that purpose. Zimbabwe had suddenly removed the two most prolific batsmen in the side, and a tiny glimpse of hope emerged.
It was perhaps fitting that Fawad would be the man to extinguish those hopes. No stranger to slow, attritional cricket when it seems no one might be watching, he dug in and began to ensure no bowler was allowed to settle. The routine of bowlers going through entire overs – spells, even – without needing to make an effort to be economical began to be undone. He used his feet to manipulate the field, work singles, and punish any loose delivery, especially when the spinners bowled a shorter length. He got off the mark the same way he got to his half-century, with a four off a spinner. The first was a smart cut past backward point, the one that got him to the landmark an effortless flick back past the bowler that pierced mid-off and mid-on perfectly.
Butt at the other end chipped away more cautiously, eager to get to the three-figure mark he evidently had on his mind all session. It didn’t appear much would stop him, before Richard Ngarave finally shaped one away that took his outside edge. It brought the left-armer his first Test wicket, denying Butt his first Test hundred in the process.
Not much had happened during the first session, but it still took all of two hours for it to happen anyway. Pakistan retained a vice-like grip over this Test match, but in a session where they might have been expected to storm past Zimbabwe’s meagre 176 and begin building a lead of their own, their intent was conspicuous by its absence.
Only 59 runs were scored across the 32 overs, with Abid Ali the man to be dismissed, but even that scoring rate was an acceleration following a sedate first hour. Until that first drinks break, Pakistan had trudged through 16 overs while adding just 13 to the overnight score; Butt, seven runs away from a half-century overnight, still hadn’t got to that mark. Azhar’s arrival at the crease added some impetus, and towards the close of the session, the visitors finally looked like they were off and away.
Zimbabwe began the day with eight maidens in 14 overs, Blessing Muzarabani and Ngarava giving little away. Abid and Butt appeared to take their time settling in, as they had the previous day, but ended up finding themselves in a bit of a bind, unable to up the ante as the overs trickled by. Any thoughts of punishing poor deliveries were put to one side, and when Tendai Chisoro’s left-arm spin was introduced, the batsmen retreated ever further into their shell. It appeared to have the opposite effect of the one Pakistan might have desired, with Abid losing his fluency, nicking off to first slip with one of the few drives he attempted. Brendan Taylor juggled with the catch at first slip, but ended up holding on.
It began a trend of Zimbabwe breaking partnerships fairly regularly, but with so few runs to play for, the intermittent wicket is unlikely to drag them back into a contest that’s already perhaps swung irreversibly the other way.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000