Zimbabwe made history in November 1998 with their first ever win in an overseas Test - and, thanks to a foggy December which ensured draws in the next two games, converted that into their first series victory. They could not have picked a better time to tour Pakistan. Their hosts were distracted by the judicial inquiry into match-fixing allegations against some of the team's leading cricketers, and had just lost a Test series to Australia for the first time on Pakistan soil since 1959-60. Moreover, captain Aamir Sohail clearly lacked support and commitment from his team-mates.
Sohail's past volatility had made him unpopular with the selectors and other players: Wasim Akram would normally have been the automatic choice as captain. But the Pakistan Cricket Board, under intense pressure from the public and the media, could not be blamed for putting faith in Sohail, who was one of those who had raised the issue of match-fixing, while Wasim was one of those under investigation. And Sohail had made an excellent start, winning a Test in South Africa while acting as stand-in captain, and then thrashing India 4-1 in the Sahara Cup. Significantly, Wasim was missing during these successes, but he returned immediately after the Sahara Cup. From then on, Sohail never looked able to command his troops. Already isolated, he made the mistake of clashing with new coach Javed Miandad and the selectors on team issues. After a shattering defeat by Zimbabwe in the First Test, it was announced that Sohail had fallen ill, and he missed the last two Tests: wicket-keeper Moin Khan stepped in as captain.
Zimbabwe took full advantage of this confusion - but they could not have done so had they not been a much improved and better-equipped side than the one which last toured Pakistan in 1996-97. Alistair Campbell, captain on both tours, led them well, and clearly he and coach Dave Houghton had done their homework. They gave Pakistan warning by winning the second one-day international, thanks to a hundred by all-rounder Neil Johnson. Pakistan hit back to win the one-day series, but came unstuck in the First Test at Peshawar.
Desperate for a win, they prepared a grassy pitch to help the fast bowlers. They found out too late that Zimbabwe's own pace attack were no longer pushovers. Heath Streak, Henry Olonga and Mpumelelo Mbangwa bowled Pakistan out for just 103 on the third day to set up an unexpected win. But they could not have done it without Johnson, who kept his side in the match with a courageous maiden Test hundred in the first innings. Pakistan prepared another seaming pitch for the Second Test, and this time bowled out Zimbabwe for 183 on day one, before dense fog and bad light forced a draw. The same sort of bad weather caused the Third Test to be abandoned without a ball bowled, giving Zimbabwe the Test series 1-0.
Pakistan had also given Zimbabwe their first-ever Test win at Harare in 1994-95, when they won by an innings and 64 runs. The victory at Peshawar was only their third in 32 Tests - but their second in succession, following one against India in October - and their first in 15 Tests away from home. Campbell said afterwards that he felt the seeds of their triumph in Pakistan were sown in Harare; beating India was an enormous boost to their self-confidence.
A. D. R. Campbell (Mashonaland) (captain), A. Flower (Mashonaland) (vice-captain), E. A. Brandes (Mashonaland), C. N. Evans (Mashonaland), G. W. Flower (Mashonaland), M. W. Goodwin (Mashonaland), A. G. Huckle (Matabeleland), N. C. Johnson (Matabeleland), M. Mbangwa (Matabeleland), H. K. Olonga (Matabeleland), G. J. Rennie (Mashonaland), P. A. Strang (Mashonaland), H. H. Streak (Matabeleland) A. R. Whittal (Matabeleland), C. B. Wishart (Mashonaland).
Manager and coach: D. L. Houghton.
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