The second Test of the 2013 Zimbabwe vs. Pakistan Test series gets underway in Harare on Tuesday morning, following concerns of a boycott by the hosts over outstanding payments, according to ESPNcricinfo.
With that issue and a late change of venue resolved, the two sides will finally return to playing cricket to complete Pakistan's tour of the African nation. Having won both the Twenty20 and One-Day competitions, Pakistan currently lead 1-0 in the two-match Test Match series.
Zimbabwe suffered at the hands of Pakistan's spin bowlers in the opening Test. With fears of an under-prepared pitch in Harare following the switch of location just days ago, the spinners should come to the fore once more this week.
According to ESPNcricinfo, Hamilton Masakadza—the stand-in Zimbabwe captain in the first Test—had this to say of the Harare surface this week:
It's going to get a lot worse, a lot quicker. It's going to be tough for the groundsman with such a short turnaround and the spinners will definitely come into play much more in the second innings.
Thus, Zimbabwe face a considerable challenge to get something out of the series, and the toss will have a major bearing on the game. Following poor results against the West Indies and a convincing first Test defeat, the hosts will be desperate to earn a morale-boosting win.
Pre-Match Betting Odds
(Bet365 odds correct as of 08.30 BST, per Oddschecker)
Key Players to Watch
Saeed Ajmal (Pakistan)
Off-spin bowler Saeed Ajmal tore through Zimbabwe in the first Test, taking 11 wickets in the match to see his side to what was ultimately a comfortable victory.
The 35-year-old is one of the most feared bowlers in world cricket, having taken 144 wickets at an average of 26 in Test matches, per ESPNcricinfo, and has been a thorn in Zimbabwe's side in all formats of the game on the current tour.
Ajmal is currently the third-best bowler in the world, making him the world's best spin bowler, per the official ICC world rankings.
With the pitch in Harare set to spin as the game goes on, as alluded to by Masakadza, Ajmal will play a major role as Pakistan's leading spin bowler. Zimbabwe simply must find a way to keep him out, but it won't be easy.
Tendai Chatara (Zimbabwe)
It will be just a fourth Test outing for 22-year-old Chatara against Pakistan, but the medium-fast bowler has impressed against the tourists in recent weeks, taking 12 wickets across six innings.
With a First Class average of under 22, per ESPNcricinfo, Chatara clearly has potential, and Zimbabwean cricket will be desperate for him to come good as they look to prove they can still compete at the top level.
The pitch may be more suited to spinners, and in Prosper Utseya Zimbabwe have a decent off-spin option with the ball. However, it is Chatara who has caused the Pakistan batsmen the most consistent problems in recent fixtures.
Pakistan's batting is not as strong as it has been in previous years. With opener Mohammad Hafeez having scored just 64 runs in eight Test innings in 2013, Chatara should look to target a potential point of weakness at the top of the order.