Harare September 6,; Test victories do not come easy for an underdog striving to cause an upset, and Younis Khan capitalised on his reprieves to bury Zimbabwe’s chances with his fourth double-century. He set the hosts the challenge of making their highest total in the fourth innings, in a little over three sessions, on a wearing pitch, against an attack led by Saeed Ajmal. Battling for a draw, the more realistic objective, was demanding in itself.
Zimbabwe had hope at the start of the day. Pakistan were 90 ahead and four down, and Tendai Chatara bowled Asad Shafiq in the first over. Another wicket in the next few overs would have exposed Pakistan’s tail just around when the second new ball was available. Younis, however, found reliable company in Adnan Akmal, whose career-best 64 was the larger contribution in their 118-run partnership that swung the Test.
Zimbabwe had an early opportunity too, but they were left wondering what could have been if only they had taken it. On 83, in the first half-hour, off the first ball of the 76th over bowled by Hamilton Masakadza, Younis slashed and edged. Tino Mawoyo was not low enough at first slip and the ball scurried between his legs.
There were no more chances in the first session. The new ball was given to Chatara and Tinashe Panyangara, and though they were disciplined, the pitch was placid and there were no alarms barring the odd delivery that held its line to beat Akmal’s bat.
Younis slowed down against the new ball, and he eventually brought up his century by flicking the last delivery of the 85th over to the boundary. He did not play another rash shot but soon began to score more briskly, while Akmal broke stretches of defence with the occasional boundary, including a reverse sweep.
Zimbabwe did not go to pieces but the bite in their bowling was not as sharp and run-scoring was largely risk-free. At the end of the first session, Pakistan were ahead by180 and Zimbabwe had only one wicket to show for their morning’s effort.
After the break, Younis and Akmal remained content with blocking. The first ten overs post lunch produced only nine runs and during that time Younis, on 117, slashed at Hamilton Masakadza once again, and once again he was dropped, this time by Malcolm Waller at gully. Pakistan’s lead had not yet got out of hand, but Younis ensured it did.
Akmal brought up his third Test half-century and made 64, a personal best. He struck the first boundary of the second session, pulling Hamilton Masakadza, only in the 111th over. Younis, meanwhile, scored only three runs in the first hour but if his slow strike-rate was bothering him, there was no evidence of it. The key player in keeping the scoring down was Panyangara, who finished the innings with 14 maidens in 30 overs.
The wicket, when it finally came, was via a run-out. No other mode of dismissal seemed likely and even this error was out of the blue. Both batsmen were guilty of ball-watching after Akmal played to deep point and turned for the second without looking at his partner. The partnership had taken the lead beyond 200.
Pakistan had only scored 51 between lunch and tea and so when four wickets fell in a clutch – three to Prosper Utseya – Zimbabwe could have limited their target to around 250. Their bowlers, however, were wearing and Younis, batting with the last man Rahat Ali, began to open up. After passing 150, he began to slog sweep to the boundary and play the reverse of that shot too. And once he realised Rahat was making clean contact, striking several blows to and over the boundary, he didn’t bother with farming strike.
The question remained about when Pakistan would declare and the longer they left it the more likely it seemed that Younis would be given the chance to score a double-hundred. Eventually, with ten overs remaining, Misbah-ul-Haq signalled from the dressing room that he had one more over. Three balls later Younis mowed one over the midwicket boundary and left the field with arms raised in triumph. His last-wicket stand of 88 with Rahat had set Zimbabwe a target of 342.
The day, which had begun so promisingly, got worse for Zimbabwe. Their openers survived seven of the remaining eight overs unscathed but Saeed Ajmal spun one into Tino Mawoyo’s pads, trapping him plumb in front. Ajmal now has eight wickets in the Test, and has nine more tomorrow from which he can swell his tally.