Pakistan September 11; It was down to the old firm of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq to stabilise Pakistan after the top order wobbled again. Khurram Manzoor did make a determined half-century in his comeback series but Mohammad Hafeez had another failure at Test level and Azhar Ali fell early as well, leaving it to the experienced hands to start the repair job at 96 for 3. By stumps, Younis had become the fourth Pakistan batsmen to go past 7000 Test runs on his way to one more fifty, Misbah had dug in for the long haul as usual, and the stand had grown to 67.
There was almost an air of inevitability to this familiar partnership, which was saying a lot on a pitch where a batsman was never quite in. The expected deterioration hadn’t happened yet, but there were many deliveries that stayed low. Scoring was difficult through the day but Younis and Misbah were assured, Younis pushing and driving straight, Misbah guiding and nudging square. There was the occasional play-and-miss and lbw appeal, but that could induce no change at all in the men’s temperament or their methods.
Manzoor had shown excellent composure till he rushed out for a single to square leg soon after tea and was stranded, Younis’ refusal coming a touch late. The opener had kicked on from an uncertain start to play several aggressive drives with superb timing through point, cover and straight down the ground.
Zimbabwe’s fast bowlers came nowhere close to matching the kind of bite Junaid Khan had generated on the first morning. They weren’t able to target the good length areas, where there were cracks, as well as Junaid had. Often, they overpitched, and Pakistan, chiefly Younis and Manzoor, capitalised.
Manzoor could have gone without scoring. In the sixth over, he seemed to have got some glove off Brian Vitori for the wicketkeeper to take it down the leg side – there was a clear deviation – but the umpire probably felt it had come off the thigh pad. He was 1 off 23 at one stage and it was Hafeez who began with confidence, flicking and straight-driving for three fours as Pakistan got through the potentially tense period of eight overs before lunch unscathed.
He fell in characteristic fashion soon after the break, though, poking at a Vitori length delivery to edge to first slip on 22. Azhar could have gone fourth ball, when Tendai Chatara hit his pad in front of middle but the appeal was turned down. But he was to fall in similar fashion, trapped leg-before off Tinashe Panyangara for 7.
By then, though, Manzoor had got over his early nerves, and Zimbabwe had turned to Hamilton Masakadza, possibly to give their specialist seamers some leeway after the workload they carried in the first Test. However, Brendan Taylor stuck with Masakadza for four overs after Younis came in, allowing the batsman to settle in against harmless, gentle length deliveries outside off.
In the morning, Chatara and Vitori also had had few problems settling in, as they batted into the second hour of the day in a last-wicket stand of 46 that stretched the Zimbabwe innings to 294. The hosts began the day on 237 for 8, hoping to make the most of the remaining two wickets with the surface expected to deteriorate significantly later. There was quite some sense on display from Nos 10 and 11 as they defended resolutely and earned precious runs.
Pakistan felt they had got Chatara caught behind on 1 when Junaid ripped a lifter past the batsman’s prod. There was a faint sound as ball passed bat, but umpire Steve Davis was unmoved. It would be an hour-and-a-half more before Pakistan finally ended the innings.
Chatara was fortunate again when a couple of close lbw shouts were turned down, off Ajmal and Hafeez, the latter one appearing especially tight. Abdur Rehman ultimately broke through in the 20th over of the day when umpire Ranmore Martinesz decided ruled the latest leg-before shout against Chatara, on 21, was far too plumb to be turned down.
Panyangara had one lbw appeal negated against Misbah when he was on 18, the ball hitting the Pakistan captain high, on the back thigh pad. That was about as close as Zimbabwe came to separating the familiar partners.
Pakistan 163 for 3 (Younis 52*, Manzoor 51) trail Zimbabwe 294 (Masakadza 75, Taylor 51, Junaid 4-67) by 131 runs