Test cricket is perhaps the format where Pakistan’s progress is most discernible. There is a stability about the side which is lacking in the other formats, with the results beginning to show something of an uptick of late. Performances against Zimbabwe may not appease the critics but remain vital, because an upset would undo much of the good work of recent times, something that should be front and centre across the visitors’ minds especially after the last time Pakistan played a series in Zimbabwe.
Having won the first match convincingly, they succumbed to a chastening 24-run loss in the second in 2013. They will need to ensure this series doesn’t follow a similar pattern, especially after a disappointing T20I leg, where they scraped to two victories sandwiched by an embarrassing defeat in which they were skittled out for 99.
Zimbabwe are severely handicapped this time around by the loss of several experienced middle order hands due to various reasons, with Craig Ervine, Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza all ruled out. The batters did put up some resistance in the first Test, albeit not nearly enough. Roy Kaia and Milton Shumba had a spirited 59-run fifth-wicket stand after Zimbabwe found themselves in trouble early, and a useful opening stand between Kevin Kasuza and Tarisai Musakanda saw off the new ball in the second innings. The bowlers took wickets at regular intervals to prevent Pakistan getting away too far.
Pakistan carry a big bench and are in a position to hand out another debut after Sajid Khan played his first match in the previous Test, with Tabish Khan the likely beneficiary. That will see Faheem Ashraf sit out, depriving the side of a player who offered the best chance of a balance between batters and bowlers, especially with his runs lower down the order. But every performance here will matter for future Test series; Pakistan’s next engagement is in the West Indies in August, and individual performances here will go a long way towards selection then. Both openers – Imran Butt and Abid Ali – were on shaky ground, but runs in the opening Test look to have bought them some time.
Zimbabwe, meanwhile, cannot afford the luxury of looking ahead too far, but they do have a calendar that sees activity beyond this second Test. Bangladesh will be arriving for a full series shortly, and any momentum gleaned here will be useful if carried through to that series. For that, they will have to summon the spirit and quality from the T20Is, and put the first Test behind them.
(Last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Blessing Muzarabani continues to look the home side’s most potent strike bowler, backing up his credentials with a respectable performance in an otherwise disappointing show for his side. It was his wickets towards the end of the second day and on the morning of the third that guaranteed Pakistan would be bowled out instead of having the luxury of declaring, even finding himself on a hat-trick at one point. His figures of 4 for 73 represent a continuing ascent in the lanky fast bowler’s career, but what his side will need are strikes with the new ball as well as the old one. Should he be able to put two openers still struggling for form under pressure, Zimbabwe might have a chance of making a contest out of this.
Babar Azam missed out against what at times appeared to be a Zimbabwe attack bereft of ideas, registering the only golden duck of his Test career in the first game. With the Pakistan captain in the form of his life, lightning is unlikely to strike twice this series. The first Test was an aberration in that respect, and the home side may find they have one additional problem to worry about in the second game.
Prince Masvaure is unlikely to feature following the hand injury he sustained in the first Test, while Sean Williams and Craig Ervine remain ruled out. Wesley Madhevere looks set to play after missing out in the first Test.
Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Roy Kaia, 2 Kevin Kasuza, 3 Brendan Taylor (capt), 4 Tarisai Musakanda, 5Wesley Madhevere, 6 Regis Chakabva (wk), 7 Luke Jongwe, 8 Wellington Masakadza, 9 Donald Tiripano, 10 Blessing Muzarabani, 11 Victor Nyauchi
No significant changes are expected for Pakistan, with Sajid likely to play despite an indifferent debut. Tabish appears to be in the mix, and should he play, Ashraf would be the man to sit out.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Imran Butt, 2 Abid Ali, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Babar Azam (capt), 5 Fawad Alam, 6 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 7 Hasan Ali, 8 Tabish Khan, 9 Sajid Khan, 10 Nauman Ali, 11 Shaheen Shah Afridi
Pitch and conditions
The weather for the next seven days will be cool with plenty of sunshine. The surface in the first Test played slow, and this one is expected to be no different.
Stats that matter
- Fawad Alam has converted each of his first four half centuries into triple figures, one of only six players in Tests to have done so.
- Zimbabwe have only three players with more than ten Test matches under their belt: Brendan Taylor, Regis Chakabva and Donald Tiripano.
- Azam is the first Pakistan captain to lead his side to victory in his first three Tests.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent
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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