Passing the doosra test, barely
It's hard to pick a winner in the battle between skill and patience, but when it occurred in Bulawayo, between Saeed Ajmal and Tino Mawoyo, patience won. Despite Ajmal's ability to bowl an unreadable doosra, Mawoyo's resolve to struggle on - in illiterate fashion at times - helped him defy the spinner and steer Zimbabwe through the first day.
Ajmal was introduced in the 17th over, after the fast bowlers Sohail Khan, Aizaz Cheema and Junaid Khan failed to have any impact. The trio had tried everything - to move the ball away, to move it in, to keep it straight, to pitch it up, to pitch it short, to pitch on a length. Nothing had worked. Vusi Sibanda had pulled, even when it wasn't there to pull, while Mawoyo had watched, though Pakistan were hoping he would take his eye off the ball and do something rash.
Pakistan's bowlers were probably wondering why their captain Misbah-ul-Haq had put them through this: tough toil on a batsman's track, with only one frontline spinner against a line-up that struggles against turn. Ajmal had to be the difference, and he was. He started with a delivery that turned sharply into Sibanda's pads and immediately found the right length - too short to drive, not short enough to pull. And when he delivered the doosra, he went from being just problematic to perilous for Zimbabwe.
Mawoyo was baffled by his first doosra. He played for turn into him and edged wide of the slips as it moved away. The result was a boundary but it had Mawoyo rattled. With that delivery, swords had been drawn. Mine is sharp, said Ajmal, knowing that his ability with the ball was superior to Mawyoyo's with the bat. Mine is strong, replied Mawoyo, readying himself for a long resistance that would help him survive but never get the better of Ajmal.
Sibanda had no such shield against the doosra and was out in Ajmal's next over. See that, Mawoyo, you're next, Ajmal seemed to say and he bowled several doosras to him. Just prior to Sibanda's dismissal, Mawoyo, again, had no clue and was beaten. In Ajmal's next over, he was hit on the pad. The next doosra Mawoyo faced resulted in a leading edge and the following one struck him on the pad again.
Junaid, meanwhile, bowled four consecutive maiden overs after lunch, three of them to Mawoyo. Stifled by Junaid and troubled by Ajmal, Mawoyo almost gave up. He played a hook off Junaid and mistimed it, but Sohail fumbled the top edge at long leg. I'm still here, Saeed, Mawoyo implied, and the contest resumed.
Mawoyo was able to smoke an extra-cover drive off Ajmal before Brendan Taylor was lbw to a delivery that turned impressively. Then, Tatenda Taibu arrived, with his reputation for playing spin well, and he was able to pick the doosra immediately. Mawoyo watched him do it, and got beaten. He watched Taibu to do it again and got an outside edge for four. Another edge bounced short of second slip and he also survived a confident lbw appeal. As lunch melted into tea, Mawoyo was dissolving against the doosra. Just enough of him remained intact, though, to survive the day.
Ajmal was reminiscent of another offspinner, Saqlain Mushtaq, who decimated the Zimbabwe line-up the previous time Pakistan played a Test in Bulawayo. That was in November 2002 and Saqlain took 10 wickets in the match - 7 for 66 in the first innings and 3 for 89 in the second.
That day, Alistair Campbell was the closest thing to a Mawoyo, scoring 46 and 62, forming the biggest partnerships for Zimbabwe in a losing cause. Campbell sat on the pavilion roof watching Mawoyo and remembered how he also had no clue what to do against the doosra.
"There's hardly anybody in the world that can bowl that delivery and we hadn't seen it before in Zimbabwe," he said. "It's difficult to play because the guys that bowl it are world-class."
Did he think Ajmal today was similar to Saqlain almost ten years ago? "Saqlain was a bit more of a twinkle-toes, he ran a little faster, but they have same way of pausing a little just before they deliver the ball," he said. "It was tough."
It appeared to be tougher for Mawoyo, who scored slowly for most of the day. The only shot of any authority off Ajmal was a loft over mid-off that bounced once before crossing the boundary. My patience beats your skill, is what that stroke said.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent