Zimbabwe v Pakistan, lone Test, Harare, 1st day September 1, 2011

Ervine's lucky escape, Sohail's big miss

ESPNcricinfo presents the Plays of the Day from the first day of the lone Test between Zimbabwe and Pakistan in Bulawayo

Gamble of the day
Before the match had actually begun, the first notable decision of this contest was made. Misbah-ul-Haq won the toss and decided to put Zimbabwe in to bat on a pitch that promised runs. Perhaps he thought that the only way Pakistan would be able to get wickets was by making use of any early advantage on offer as a result of the generously green pitch. He was wrong. Zimbabwe's bowling coach, Heath Streak, who is from Bulawayo, said he had played on pitches here with more grass than this one, but even then the ball refused to do much. Yes, he was surprised Pakistan had opted to field, since Bulawayo is known as a bat-first surface.

Drive of the day
Vusi Sibanda prefers to pull and showed it early in the day, but someone should tell him that his driving could be even better appreciated. His first runs came with an exquisite shot down the ground, between the bowler and mid-on, off a Sohail Khan delivery that was just too straight. The shot was beautiful and the placement perfect, but it was the way in which Sibanda executed it that was most spectacular. His positioning of the front foot was authoritative and he finished off with his elbows held high to demonstrate a solid follow through.

Drop of the day
Pakistan and dropped catches go together like Zimbabwe and blue skies, but with two edges not carrying to the slips, they couldn't be blamed for having butter fingers this time. That is, until Sohail Khan put down one of the easiest chances he will ever get. Mawoyo was being frustrated by Junaid Khan, who had bowled four maiden overs in succession after lunch, by varying his lengths and making difficult to get him away. During his fifth over, Mawoyo tried to hook but got a top edge that gave Sohail at long leg at least ten seconds to judge the path of the ball and get under it. He did all of that and then let the ball slip through his fingers. It turned out to be a costly blunder, with Mawoyo anchoring the Zimbabwe innings.

Lucky escape of the day
Brendan Taylor did not mince his words when he said that there was some doubt over whether Craig Ervine should be in the team, indicating the pressure in on the batsman to show he deserves his place in the side. At training on Wednesday, Ervine was called aside to have a private chat with coach Alan Butcher, which lasted about 25 minutes. With his place in the side precarious, he made a bad judgement first ball of his innings, allowing a ball on the pads to thud into his thigh pad instead of steering it to fine leg. The ball took the edge of the pad and rolled towards the stumps, almost hitting them, but fortune saved Ervine.

Surprise of the day
After 82 overs of hard grind, Pakistan probably weren't sure if they should take the new ball or continue with the spinners and the old one. Eventually, they decided to do a bit of both. The new nut was given to Mohammad Hafeez, who had done the job for Pakistan in the West Indies earlier this year. On those occasions, he made Devon Smith his bunny, but he had no such luck this time.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent