Stumps Pakistan 268 for 4 (Azhar 126, Abid 118*, Muzarabani 3-41) vs Zimbabwe
Centuries from Abid Ali and Azhar Ali put Pakistan in firm command of the second Test at stumps in Harare. The pair combined for a 236-run second wicket partnership – a record at this venue – which spanned nearly the entirety of the day.
Zimbabwe found themselves toiling on a slow pitch, with the ball offering little encouragement for most of the day as the two batters played out near chanceless innings. The arrival of the new ball ensured the hosts would have something to take back with them overnight, with three quickfire strikes from Blessing Muzarabani sending Azhar, Babar Azam and Fawad Alam back before stumps were called. Even so, Pakistan had moved on to 268 for 4 by that time, finishing the day well in control.
The visitors opted to bat after winning the toss, with the most striking bit of news the decision to hand a debut to 36-year old Tabish Khan. The reasons for excluding Faheem Ashraf, entering perhaps the most promising phase of a young Test career, weren’t quite satisfactorily explained, and the omission meant Pakistan’s tail was somewhat extended.
Pakistan might have been keen to ensure they don’t need extra runs from the lower order, and while Azhar and Abid have effectively guaranteed them that, it was Muzarabani and Richard Ngarava who enjoyed the better of the first hour. As they did in the first Test, the pair gave little away by way of scoring opportunities, bogging the two openers down. Imran Butt looked a little indecisive against deliveries around his off stump, with both bowlers working him over as the dot balls began to mount. It was the change of pace that worked though, with Ngarava banging one in short that hustled Butt as he tried to pull over midwicket. No timing on that shot meant he would never clear the man, and Zimbabwe had an early breakthrough.
It wasn’t until the over before drinks in a first hour that Zimbabwe dominated that the shackles began to be broken. Azhar got Donald Tiripano off for a boundary on either side of the wicket to tick the scoreboard over, and from thereon, a touch of sloppiness seeped its way into Zimbabwe’s game. Abid was significantly more circumspect as the former Pakistan captain Azhar taking charge of the scoring, but a loose over from Tendai Chisoro allowed the opener to get a couple of fours away too, and get himself settled.
Pakistan resumed after lunch at a much higher tempo than was the case in the morning, with the hour following the break especially productive. Tiripano, among the brighter lights for Zimbabwe in the first Test, was especially lackadaisical, his lines and lengths wavering constantly as the batters picked up a boundary just about every over. Azhar was especially proficient at creating gaps backward of square and through the midwicket area, while Abid expertly leant on and timed through the covers the full deliveries.
With the ball doing little – and little on offer from the surface – Zimbabwe will be disappointed at not having maintained their disciplines and waited for the batters to make mistakes. The frustration began to show as the session wore on, and that bred even more waywardness on the part of the bowlers.
Zimbabwe managed to convince the umpires to get the ball changed after 53 overs, but that did not herald a change of fortune. If anything, things went from bad to worse as a long-hop from Chisoro was walloped by Abid into short leg, where Roy Kaia was stationed. It caught the side of the left knee, and Kaia was in agony for several minutes before being stretchered off, adding another potential injury to Zimbabwe’s long casualty list.
But none of that fazed the two batters, who continued hour upon hour and session upon session, wholly focused on spending time at the crease and accumulating runs wherever possible. The run rate played cat and mouse with the three runs per over mark for much of the last two sessions, and while that made for slightly tedious viewing at times, the levels of concentration it might have taken to look as assured as the pair did should not go unremarked. Abid needed runs desperately this series to save his spot in the side, while Azhar, whom Pakistan had sacked as captain, continued to remind the selectors his place in the side remains set in stone.
But with both having cruised to their centuries and looking to set themselves up for the following day, Zimbabwe struck back with some class of their own. A triple-strike from Muzarabani restored some respectability to the scorecard from the bowlers’ point of view, beginning when Azhar looked to drive him on the up, only finding a thick edge that flew to gully.
It was followed up by the big price of Azam’s wicket, in similar fashion to the way Azhar fell. Muzarabani’s knack of troubling the Pakistan captain continues to pay dividends; this is the sixth time since his return to the national side last year that the Zimbabwean has got rid of Azam. There was also time to see the back of Alam, whom Muzarabani worked over thoroughly in a brief innings. He was peppered with the short ball before finally dragging one on to the stumps, with Pakistan scurrying to send in nightwatchman Sajid Khan to see the day out.
Zimbabwe finished the day as they began it – on top – but being as exceptionally ineffective as they were in the middle came with its costs. They will need to pick up where they left off tomorrow morning, and stick at it until the final wicket is taken if the damage wrought by the Azhar and Abid Ali is to be reversed.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
Bangladesh unhappy as Australia’s Covid-19 demands force Mushfiqur Rahim to miss home T20Is
According to the terms agreed to between the two boards, the senior batter can’t enter the Dhaka bio-bubble now
“It is unfair what happened with Mushfiq,” a member of Bangladesh’s tour party to Zimbabwe, told ESPNcricinfo. “We came in a commercial flight passing through three airports so I don’t know if it makes much sense to keep Mushfiq out of the series. He went back home from the middle of a tour for a family problem. So to not allow him to enter the quarantine after just two or three days, is not right.”
The BCB says it did ask CA to reconsider the stance on Rahim, but to no avail.
“The agreement between CA and BCB says that there is no chance for allowing anyone from outside into the bio-bubble,” a BCB official said. “We have to hold the series with only those inside the bio-bubble. There will be challenges but this is the new normal. I think the selectors have picked the players who are best available during this scenario. There are no alternatives but to take our best available options.”
The quarantine rules could also have an impact on the use of DRS during the series. DRS technicians sit in the same room generally with match officials but the latter have been in a ten-day quarantine period and anyone coming in from the outside – such as a DRS technician – will not be able to sit in the same room according to protocols.
“We have fulfilled the requirements for the production team. We are ready,” a BCB official said. “If the technician can work from a remote location, we will have DRS. There still remain some challenges but the technical person still has time (to be involved in the series).
“He has to comply with a three-day quarantine (according to local health directorate), but CA has a condition that whoever isn’t part of the ten-day quarantine, they can’t get into close contact with anyone who was in the quarantine. If this person can manage to do the work remotely, then we can have DRS in the playing conditions.”
The issues highlight the challenges the BCB faced for this series, in setting up two separate quarantines for match officials, hotel staff, and logistics, liaison and ground staff; the BCB has also made sure that the Australians can go to the team hotel from the airport tarmac directly. Their immigration will be processed separately, and their passports returned only after being sanitised for three days. The hotel will also be off-limits to anyone but the touring party till August 10.
The BCB had earlier agreed to hold all the five matches at the Shere Bangla National Stadium instead of at two venues.
“It is not just about CA giving us conditions and us accepting those conditions,” a board official said. “The Australia team is traveling here on a chartered flight from West Indies. It shows how serious they are about the health and welfare of players. We are only fulfilling some of their additional requirements.”
Despite all that, concern will remain. Bangladesh is currently experiencing a fresh Covid-19 wave, and the country has been in a strict lockdown. There were 258 deaths and 14,925 new cases the day before Australia’s arrival in Dhaka on Thursday. Pulling off the series without incident will be important for the BCB’s home season ahead, given New Zealand are expected to arrive in early September to play five T20Is before England travel for three T20Is and the same number of ODIs.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
SL vs IND, 2nd T20I, 2021
He trusted his lower-order team-mates to play big shots if he took the game deep
Not known for his hitting capability, the match situation was perhaps made for de Silva, who struck only two boundaries – a six and a four – and focused instead on running singles and twos. With a severely depleted India making only 132, Sri Lanka did not require huge fireworks with the bat to chase it down.
“This is what I’m meant to do for the team,” de Silva said after the match. “In the previous match as well, what I’d been told was to bat 20 overs from one side. I wasn’t able to do that in the previous game. Today was my day and I did that. If I can bat at a run-a-ball until the final overs, letting others attack around me, I can raise my strike rate towards the finish as well. That was the coach, captain and selectors’ plan.”
de Silva said the surface for this match was the slowest of the tour. It took a significant turn right through the game, with spinners picking up seven of the 11 wickets to fall. Only three sixes were struck in the entire match.
“We knew it was a slow pitch, so our target while bowling was to restrict them to 125 or 130,” he said. “Our bowlers did well and we were able to manage that. When it came to our innings, we knew that it would be tough to bat as well, but if we dragged the game out to the 20th over, the equation becomes simple and we know what we have to do. I think even a T20 match, that’s the way to do it.”
“We know that in the last four or five batters we have a few that can hit a six. Chamika, Wanindu Hasaranga, Isuru Udana and even Dushmantha Chameera can hit a big shot. What I’d wanted to do was to take the game deep, thinking that Wanindu or Chamika would be there with me to finish it off. Thankfully, Chamika was there at the end.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
The Hundred – Jofra Archer not expected to link up with Southern Brave this week
Team hopeful of having the pacer for the last four games as he continues a gradual comeback from elbow surgery
Archer has played twice for Sussex in the last 10 days, first bowling three overs in their Vitality Blast win against Kent and a further six against Oxfordshire in a 50-over warm-up match last Tuesday, but has not linked up with the Southern Brave squad since the start of the Hundred and is not expected to do so this week.
“It’s one of those where I’m staying out of it and leaving it to the experts in that area. Hopefully we do get him because it would be a big boost for us, but if we don’t, we’ve got guys who are capable here.”
An ECB spokesperson said that a further update on Archer’s fitness was expected next week but did not confirm whether he had been given a pain-killing injection in the last two days. Archer underwent elbow surgery in May following an aborted comeback from the injury at the start of the English summer.
The Brave were the pre-tournament favourites for the men’s competition but have lost both of their first two games and are already in danger of missing out on the knockout stages, with only the top three teams progressing. Mahela Jayawardene, their head coach, has regularly recovered from sluggish starts while coaching Mumbai Indians in the IPL, and Vince suggested that his recent experience with Hampshire – who squeezed into the Blast’s quarter-finals in the final round of group games – meant he was not panicking yet.
“I’m sure we’ll realise that we need to start winning soon but I’ve just been part of a Hampshire side in the Blast that got off to a bit of a slow start and then managed to play some great cricket towards the back end and get some momentum going,” he said. “I think this format will be very similar.
“We’re aware we need to improve in a few areas but we were much better [on Tuesday] and had our chance to win the game. The next three or four games coming up will be important to make sure we’re there or thereabouts come the last few.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
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