Zimbabwe’s loss to Pakistan by 221 runs at Harare should not come as a surprise. But the fact that they lost by such a big margin after being in a dominating position would be disheartening for them. It was Zimbabwe’s inability build on the pressure they put up on the Pakistani batsmen in both the innings, as well as their inexperience and lack of skills that cost them the Test. Pakistan on the other hand ensured they stayed alive in the match somehow and eventually had enough ammunition to outdo the hosts.
The most significant performance of the match was by Younis Khan, whose magnificent double century turned around the fortunes of the Test. Going into the game, the veteran middle-order batsman was under big pressure since he hadn’t scored too many runs in the previous matches. However, Khan silenced all his critics with a marathon display which laid the foundation of victory for Pakistan after a massive struggle earlier in the game. A couple of days back this writer had questioned Khan’s place in the team with his piece – Is it time for Younis Khan to retire. But, the batsman had made the writer eat his words.
Khan’s knock was extremely important in the sense that Zimbabwe had gained a decent lead in the first innings and then had reduced Pakistan to three wickets down without many runs on the board. Had they lost a couple of more wickets, Zimbabwe might well have been chasing a gettable target and could have ended up winning the Test. However, Khan ensured that there was no shock in store for the Pakistani fans with a superlative effort that drained out the Zimbabweans. With the innings, the 35-year-old has revived his career, but he needs to carry on performing well against bigger teams as well.
While Khan’s innings was special, he got good support from skipper Misbah-Ul-Haq and Adnan Akmal’s whose half-centuries were also important in Pakistan building up a sizeable lead in their second innings. Once they had a massive score to defend, Pakistan were also going to be favourites. Still, it was impressive to see their bowlers run through the Zimbabwe batting. Spinners were expected to be the main threat for the hosts, and it turned out that way, with Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman grabbing the majority of the scalps, but pacer Junaid Khan’s spicy spell ensured that Zimbabwe did not get off to a comfortable start.
As for the Zimbabweans they would rue the many lost opportunities in the Test. On the opening day, they had Pakistan on the mat, but allowed them to recover as the tail wagged with Ajmal nearly making a half-century. Then, in their first innings, three of the batsmen got half-centuries but not one of them carried on to registered a big score. Zimbabwe’s bowlers gave their side another sniff at victory when they claimed Pakistan’s first three wickets in the second innings cheaply, only to run into the wall named Khan.
--By A Cricket Analyst