HARARE - Even after the strong showing of their bowlers on the first day in Harare, doubts persisted over whether Zimbabwe would pose a challenge, given the fragility of their Test batting, especially in the absence of Brendan Taylor, and the quality Pakistan's attack. Those concerns were heightened soon after lunch, when both the set batsmen Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza were dismissed off consecutive deliveries.
However Malcolm Waller, who found form over the past week after a miserable India series, and debutant Sikandar Raza underlined Zimbabwe's ability to stand up to the bigger teams with a 127-run fourth-wicket partnership that put Zimbabwe on course for the lead. The home side were ahead by 32 at stumps, and will probably need a few more considering they have to bat last in the game, when Saeed Ajmal's bag of tricks will prove a handful.
For the second day in a row, Ajmal did his bit to keep Pakistan from falling too far back in the game. On Tuesday his unbeaten 49 had rescued Pakistan from 182 for 8, and today, after being dismissed first ball in the morning, he snared four wickets to keep Zimbabwe's lead from getting out of hand. Still, there can be no doubts over which of the two sides will be happier at this stage of the Test - Zimbabwe's stand-in captain Masakadza sported a huge grin and even tried out a couple of dance moves as he watched the final overs of the day.
The only time Pakistan looked like they could take control of the game was early in the second session when Zimbabwe slipped to 68 for 3. Junaid Khan, the pace spearhead, was rewarded for a probing over in which he tweaked his line and length till he got it perfect on the final delivery, getting Sibanda to nick to the keeper. Off the next ball, Ajmal fired in a straighter one and Masakadza was bowled as he played for the spin.
Raza is in his first Test and Waller hadn't scored a half-century in any format since his 55 at the start of the Bangladesh series in April. With the wicketkeeper Richmond Mutumbodzi not really a recognised batsman, the lower order also didn't inspire too much confidence.
Waller, though, wasn't cowed by the situation, showing his confidence by hitting his first ball for four, a cover drive off Ajmal. That shot made a frequent appearance as Waller sprinted to 33 off 30 balls, with the help of seven boundaries. In what has been a low-scoring game, that burst of run-making was even to shift the pressure back onto Pakistan, and it made it easier for Raza to settle in.
PAKISTAN 1ST INNINGS:
Khurram Manzoor lbw b Panyangara 11
M Hafeez c Sibanda b Chatara 5
Azhar Ali c Sibanda b S. Masakadza 78
Younus Khan b Panyangara 3
Misbah-ul-Haq c Sibanda b Utseya 53
Asad Shafiq c Mawoyo b Utseya 4
Adnan Akmal b Chatara 18
Abdur Rehman lbw b S. Masakadza 7
Saeed Ajmal b Chatara 49
Junaid Khan c Mutumbami b Panyangara 17
Rahat Ali not out 0
EXTRAS: (lb3, w1) 4
TOTAL: (90.1 overs) 249
FOW: 1-13, 2-21, 3-27, 4-120, 5-132, 6-157, 7-173, 8-182, 9-249
BOWLING: Chatara 22.1-6-64-3, Panyangara 20-2-71-3, S. Masakadza 22-8-40-2, Chigumbura 2-0-15-0, Utseya 23-1-55-2, H. Masakadza 1-0-1-0
Zimbabwe 1st innings:
T Mawoyo c Adnan b Junaid 13
V Sibanda c Adnan b Junaid 31
H Masakadza b Ajmal 19
Sikandar Raza c Misbah b Ajmal 60
MN Waller c Hafeez b Ajmal 70
E Chigumbura not out 40
R Mutumbami lbw b Ajmal 13
P Utseya b Rahat 16
SW Masakadza not out 2
EXTRAS: (b5, lb10, w2) 17
TOTAL: (7 wickets; 87 overs) 281
FOW: 1-25, 2-68, 3-68, 4-195, 5-212, 6-235, 7-278
BOWLING: Junaid Khan 20-6-61-2, Rahat Ali 18-3-53-1, Abdur Rehman 19-5-56-0, Saeed Ajmal 26-3-77-4, Younus Khan 4-1-19-0
UMPIRES: S Davis (Aus), R Martinesz (SL)
TV UMPIRE: T Matibiri (Zim)
MATCH REFEREE: J Srinath (Ind)