Zimbabwe thwarted by Ajmal's 49 not out as Pakistan ends first day on 249 for 9
A ninth-wicket stand of 67 betweed Saeed Ajmal (49*) and Junaid Khan (17) spared some of Pakistan’s blushes as it closed on 249 for 9 on the first day of the first Test against Zimbabwe at Harare Sports Club on Tuesday (September 3).
Pakistan appeared to have shrugged off the loss of three early wickets on a greenish pitch with a touch of moisture as Misbah-ul-Haq (53) and Azhar Ali (78) took the score to 120 at a cautious pace before the middle order dissolved in the face of steady seam bowling and the nagging offspin of Prosper Utseya.
But what might have been a magnificent day for the home side, who had to shrug off the last-minute loss of Brendan Taylor, the regular skipper, who spent the night with his wife awaiting the arrival of their son, was spoiled in the final hour by a partnership featuring as much playing-and-missing as it did cover swats and sneaked singles.
Mohammad Hafeez edged to slip in the seventh over, Khurram Manzoor was lbw to one which was straight but may have been high and Younis Khan, the veteran, played a perfect forward defense only to see the ball spin back onto his stumps as Pakistan crashed to 27 for 3.
Typically patient defiance from Misbah, the captain, was mirrored by Azhar as they endured lengthy periods of strokelessness , particularly against the admirable Shingirai Masakadza whose 22 overs yielded a return of 2 for 40.
Misbah’s patience snapped soon after reaching his half century when an attempted on-drive failed to clear Vusi Sibanda at midwicket and a fine, leaping catch resulted. A second wicket for Utseya followed soon after when Asad Shafiq became entangled with a dipping off-break and inside edged the ball via his pad to short-leg.
Adnan Akmal played a wretched jab at Tendai Chatara, the seamer, and chopped onto his stumps while Abdur Rehman walked before the umpire could raise his finger for an lbw against Masakadza which would have hit middle stump half way up.
The ninth wicket stand was final broken with the penultimate ball of the day when Tinashe Panyangara had Junaid caught behind to finish with the day’s best return of 3 for 71 from 19.5 overs.
Zimbabwe’s top order looks painfully thin without Taylor and Sean Williams who opted not to play in the aftermath of the ongoing pay dispute between players and their employers. Pakistan’s total may yet prove beyond the home side’s batsmen.