Pakistan,September 10, 2013 Hamilton Masakadza, in company of Brendan Taylor, made sure that Zimbabwe consolidated after yet another poor start in the second Test in Harare as the pitch, which had seemed unplayable in the first hour, eased out in the second session. The century partnership between the two was a story of two halves; first, dominated by Masakadza and second, by Taylor. Zimbabwe scored 100 in the second session for the loss of just one wicket as Pakistan’s spinners couldn’t impose themselves on the first day as they had over the first Test.
Masakadza and Taylor had come together at the dismissal of Vusi Sibanda with the score on 31 and had watchfully played out till lunch. But in the second session, Masakadza looked to score freely while Taylor soaked up the deliveries at the other end. The batsmen weren’t challenged enough by the spin of Abdur Rehman as the spinner didn’t receive any assistance from the pitch. Masakadza played most of the flatter deliveries from the crease, but was quick to pounce on anything tossed up, preferring to hit over the infield. One such shot took him to his first half-century against Pakistan. Two overs later, Masakadza punched a quicker one to the cover boundary to bring up the fifty of the partnership, with Taylor scoring only 7.
In the next half though, Taylor assumed the role of the aggressor, announcing his intentions with a scooped one-bounce four off Saeed Ajmal to long-on. In the next over, he chipped one over Rehman’s head for yet another boundary. The run-rate hovered around 2.5, but when the opportunities came, Taylor made sure he was ready. He reverse-swept an Ajmal doosra, then creamed a full delivery from Rahat Ali to the cover boundary. As the two batsmen crossed the 100 of the stand, Taylor had taken over the scoring, with 32 runs coming of his bat in the second fifty.
Masakadza, who had gone into a shell in the second session even though he remained solid, was finally dismissed for 75 when he edged a doosra to a diving Mohammad Hafeez at first slip. If Pakistan thought that the wicket was an opening for them to attack the fragile middle-order, they were thwarted for the remainder of the session by some attractive strokeplay from Malcolm Waller.
The second session was in complete contrast from the first session during which only 65 runs were scored. Zimbabwe, after choosing to bat on a fresh pitch, were at sea against the Pakistan fast bowlers in the first hour as the ball darted around. The lost their first wicket off the second delivery of the day and only two runs were scored in the first 40 minutes.
The first delivery of the day bowled by Junaid Khan cut across after pitching and whizzed past Tino Mawoyo’s outside edge. The second was a touch fuller and squared up the batsman again with the away movement and the umpire was convinced the ball had taken the edge after the Pakistan team went up in a loud appeal. Replays showed that the ball might have hit the thigh pad along the way and not the bat, but Mawoyo, who has had a poor run of scores opening in Tests, had to go. Pakistan may have been lucky with the first decision, but Zimbabwe had plenty of fortune their way as the session unfolded.
Masakadza misread the first delivery he faced to be an outswinger as he shaped to leave, but saw the ball swung back into him. To the naked eye, it appeared plumb, but the umpire adjudged it was going over the stumps, and rightly so. The next two deliveries of the first over left the batsman before the last one jagged back again. They were the sign of things to come.
Rahat Ali started in the same vein from the other end and with plenty of movement on offer, kept the batsmen guessing, as ball after ball, the batsmen played and missed. He bowled a slightly fuller length and a wider line than Junaid, but induced as many errors.
However, as the pitch started showing some benevolence towards the batsmen and the bowlers started to lose the initial zing, Masakadza took the first initiative and drove Junaid through the on side. The score, for the first time in the day, had some signs of life. Pakistan introduced Younis Khan in the 14th over to bowl first change but the batsmen started picking up singles and hit the odd boundary.
Just when the two batsmen were getting comfortable, Sibanda went for an ambitious pull shot to a delivery outside off and ended up dragging it back on to his stumps, giving Rahat his first wicket in an impressive opening spell. Rahat bowled 10 consecutive overs, seven of which were maidens, and only went for 10 runs. Ajmal, the chief-destroyer from the last match, was introduced in the 18th over, but Masakadza was ready to impose himself every time the ball was tossed up. In Ajmal’s second over, he slog swept one into the deep midwicket stands and in the next, thwacked one over the bowler’s head.
Tea Zimbabwe 165 for 3 (Taylor 48*, Waller 18*, Rahat 1-29) v Pakistan