In good batting conditions in Harare, the home side slumped to 59 for 4 at lunch
Lunch Zimbabwe 59 for 4 (Kaia 16*, Shumba 13*, Hasan 2-23) vs Pakistan
Zimbabwe may have controlled whether or not to bat after Brendan Taylor called correctly at the toss, but little else was in their control in the two hours that followed. The home side found themselves outclassed, bullied and overrun in the first session, already leaving them with a mountain to climb if they are to remain competitive in whatever cricket’s left to be played. A budding, 29-run partnership to round out the session, helping Zimbabwe finish on 59 for 4, was the most encouraging progress they made, with debutants Roy Kaia and Milton Shumba working overtime as the final barrier before the gates to a bloated tail-end are thrown back.
The absence of Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza, combined with captain Sean Williams being ruled out late yesterday, meant the batting was vulnerable, with those fears only exacerbated when Hasan Ali struck in his first over to get rid of Kevin Kasuza. There was an element of tragicomedy to that dismissal, with a solid defensive shot trickling back towards the stumps, Kasuza’s bucked kick never really threatening to prevent the ball dislodging the off bail.
Shaheen Afridi at the other end was consistent as ever, suffocating Zimbabwe with pin-point accuracy, giving the batters’ techniques regular workings over. It was inevitable that would bring about a wicket sooner or later, and when Prince Masvaure pushed at one with hard hands, it flew to Imran Butt at second slip. He should have been dismissed off the first ball of the match when an outside edge wasn’t picked up by the umpire, but there would be no further chances once Butt grabbed hold of a smart catch.
Pakistan handed a debut to offspinner Sajid Khan, but it was his left-arm counterpart Nauman Ali who provided the next breakthrough breaching Tarisai Musakanda’s defences with a ball that went straight on. Zimbabwe’s woes were compounded when Taylor fell to an uncharacteristically irresponsible shot, reaching for a Hasan Ali delivery well wide of off stump, giving Faheem Ashraf a gift in the slips. The veteran threw back his head in frustration, clearly feeling his side’s best chances of putting up a respectable first-innings total were behind it.
Taylor might have a small reason to reconsider that thought thanks to an encouraging, progressive fifth-wicket partnership between Kaia and Shumba. Kaia in particular, appeared to take on more risk rather than wait for the ball that would inevitably get him out. The approach brought runs, even if his technique against the short ball looks like it might need work. Shumba rode his own luck, and Pakistan should have had Zimbabwe 30 for 5 just after he’d arrived at the crease, only for Babar Azam to drop a routine chance.
It gave Zimbabwe a lifeline, but unless this partnership exceeds all expectations, it’s unlikely to give them much more.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000