A 221-run win does look convincing and someone looking at the scorecard five years later will think of it as just that. But what it doesn’t show is the struggle Pakistan had to put up with, the authority that Zimbabwe had on proceedings and how Younus Khan rose from the depths of tepidness to the heights of magnificence in seven hours.
Pakistan looked in danger of being bowled out for a sub-200 total, Zimbabwe looked set to cross 350 and the tourists were on-course to fold out meekly for the second time in the match. Key men, on key occasions, rose elegantly to the challenge—for Pakistan, mostly—as dominance kept changing hands at regular intervals.
Zimbabwe did manage a healthy first-innings lead, Saeed Ajmal scored a useful 49 and took 11 wickets in the match and Younus Khan blasted an unbeaten double century—all of that will be clearly visible from the scorecard. But Zimbabwe’s grip on Pakistan’s throat until Younus found his bearing, and the tourists’ haplessness against tidy, but mediocre bowling, ensured the match went into the final day.
Some played exceptionally well, others remained mere pedestrians. We list five who stood out.
If Zimbabwe captain Hamilton Masakadza could single out one reason for the home side’s defeat, he would point all his fingers—if not his toes and nose as well—at Younus Khan.
Younus hadn’t played international cricket for almost six months after he was deemed surplus to Pakistan’s limited-overs requirements. Following a scratchy nine-ball stint in the first innings, Zimbabwe wouldn’t have been too worried when the former captain strolled in at 23 for three in Pakistan’s second innings.
The next 200 runs off his bat depicted his hunger and strive, of not only saving Pakistan in the match but also his legacy as one of the best Pakistan has produced. Younis’ innings was not his best show off the bat but a grand show of splendour of the mind. Scratching around initially, finding it difficult to find the runs and the meat of the bat, the Pakistani fans remained far from confident of him saving their blushes.
But in the end, as it rained sixes with Masakadza perplexed as to where it all went wrong, Younus carried on the promise and apt display of talent that had seen him score a ton on debut, now ensuring that Pakistan will go home having done better in this series than the last two.
Younus, speaking in the post-match interview, broadcast on Supersport TV, said: “Whenever the team needs me and I score a hundred, I feel good. This ranks high for me.”
His unbeaten 200 can be seen here.
Mohammad’s Hafeez’s participation in the Test was unconfirmed until the final morning—he had injured his hamstring in the ODI series decider.
By the end of day five, the allrounder remained unused as a bowler and very disappointing as a batsman. He did take a catch at slip to remove Elton Chigumbura but it was evident that Pakistan’s Twenty20 captain was not 100 percent fit for the opening Test. His dismissals bore a familiar sight—playing away from his body, edging to slip and caught at extra-cover—and his usual interruptions, where he would often set the field instead of Misbah-Ul-Haq, remained at minimum.
Hafeez, much like his predecessors, might have opted to play despite pain. He might have sat out if Pakistan had someone senior to open the batting with Khurram Manzoor. He couldn’t do much to silence critics that question his ability as a Test player—just over 2,000 runs in 33 matches.
But with Pakistan low on backup at the top of the order, Hafeez looks set to get another chance to make amends and cement his place at the top of the order. Afterall, there is nowhere else Misbah can find a place for him.
Elton Chigumbura might have missed out on a place in the playing XI had Brendan Taylor decided to play (the Zimbabwe captain opted to skip this Test due to the birth of his son).
Chigumbura was unconvincing as a senior player in the limited-overs series. He remained under utilised with the ball and came in when much was lost with the bat. With others hitting the deck and the ball harder, and more convincingly than Chigumbura, the allrounder perhaps would’ve sat out if fortune hadn’t favoured him.
Although he still remained under used with the ball—his two overs costing him 15 runs—Chigumbura scored a 69 and a 28, underlining his worth to the side. Perhaps low on confidence, though that didn’t show when he was batting, the former Zimbabwe captain needs to take more responsibility and play a greater role on the field. His show with the bat would’ve also convinced the team management to rely on him more in the next match (he should keep his place) hoping that a longer stint with the bat, an occasional breakthroughs with the ball, comes his way sooner than later.
Chigumbura’s gain is Tino Mawoyo’s loss—the opener looks set to sit out the next match in the wake of Taylor’s return.
The hosts had relied on solid, aggressive opening stands in the Twenty20s and ODIs through Masakadza and Vusi Sibanda. A sturdy, and not necessarily aggressive, foundation was what his captain would’ve wanted at the top, especially after Pakistan had folded out meekly in the 1st innings.
However, technical flaws and the inability to deal with Junaid Khan’s seam movement forced Mawoyo’s quick exists in both innings and handing over the momentum to the tourists—something they badly needed in the first innings. Amid fading light on the fourth afternoon, the hosts once again wanted patience and the openers to see out the eight overs. Mawoyo remained far from convincing against left-arm pace and rather clueless against Saeed Ajmal, succumbing in what proved to the last ball of the day.
His confidence would’ve taken a bad hit not for the lack of runs, but for the absence of application and resolve. With Zimbabwe in a tricky, must-win situation, Mawoyo remains the likely scapegoat to make way for his captain.
The perfect allrounder for Pakistan in the opening Test—Ajmal scored an authoritative, yet aggressive, 65-ball 49 and quickly returned to haunt Zimbabwe with the ball.
Ajmal’s recent ODI record hadn’t been great and the hosts would’ve been confident of handling him easily given the conviction shown in the 50-over matches. Masakadza displayed that confidence aptly by smashing the off-spinner for a six in his first over. But not only did Ajmal get the Zimbabwe captain dismissed soon after, he captured six more wickets too.
And when he wasn’t taking wickets, he was bamboozling the opposition with his flight, spin (lack of, at times) and the smile in his follow-through that screams enthusiasm and self-assurance.
He kept his glasses on while bowling, shielding the cunningness in his eyes from the batsmen, as they missed more than they played. Ajmal did pick up four more wickets in the second innings, including the first of the innings late on day four, but it remained his batting on the opening day that allowed Pakistan to have any chance of fighting in the match. At 182 for eight, much seemed lost.