Zimbabwe XI v Pakistanis, Bulawayo, 1st day September 1, 2011

Pitch a challenge for inexperiened attack - Hafeez


Zimbabwe and Pakistan have not played a Test match against each other in nine years, a time span in which both teams have changed considerably. They were expecting a few surprises. But the biggest mystery of the day wasn't provided by either side, it came from the Bulawayo pitch.

With a fair covering of green on it, Misbah-ul-Haq was probably justified in putting Zimbabwe in to bat, a decision that became questionable midway through the first session. "I was surprised that it [the pitch] didn't do much," Vusi Sibanda said after the day's play. "It seamed a little bit to start off with, but after about five overs it flattened out."

The batsman escaped the proverbial Green Mamba and it was the bowlers who had to avoid being bitten by it. Pakistan's opening pair of Sohail Khan and Aizaz Cheema failed to impress, with neither able to trouble the batsmen. "They tried to do quite a bit, which made it easier to score," Sibanda said. "Cheema bowled quite well with the new ball and got it to swing a lot more, but Sohail was just bashing out that length, hitting the bat really hard and was a lot straighter."

Even though they did not create a breakthrough, Pakistan's opening batsman and offspinner, Mohammad Hafeez said that it was a fine challenge for an inexperienced attack. "This is a learning process for our bowling attack," he said, "because they are not mature enough at this level yet."

Hafeez acknowledged that the "day belonged to the Zimbabweans", and even hinted that Pakistan may have taken their opposition, and their prowess as a Test nation, a little lightly. "Their application in Test cricket was impressive, especially as they were out of it for the last three or four years," he said. "The way they came back against Bangladesh boosted their confidence."

Tino Mawoyo, whose unbeaten 82 anchored the Zimbabwe innings, was the batsmen that took the day away from Pakistan. "He showed good technique, he really showed what was required of Test cricket," Hafeez said. "He was passionate and determined."

Mawoyo batted through the day, and took 161 balls to get to his fifty, after a characteristically slow start. Sibanda, his opening partner, said that approach is the one Mawoyo flourishes with. "That's his game, he likes to take his time," he said. "Once he gets going he will carry on and he will be looking to get a big one. He will probably struggle to sleep tonight though."

Mawoyo's toughest task was dealing with offspinner Saeed Ajmal, whose doosra he was unable to pick. Sibanda was also victim to Ajmal's wrong 'un and felt that he let himself down by not capitalising on a good start. "I've just got to be a bit hungrier, because I think I gave my wicket away today," he said." I have to try and convert those 30s and 40s into bigger scores."

Still, Ajmal, he said, was one of the more difficult bowlers he has had to face. "There's not much difference between his doosra and the normal offbreak, so you have to pick it through the air," he said. Although Mawoyo struggled against Ajmal, he put up an exceptional fight, something that Sibanda thinks is starting to define the new era of Zimbabwean cricket.

He said the team were looking forward to facing Sohail Tanvir, despite signs that the pitch will reverse swing, and were disappointed that he was left out of the starting XI. "I was looking forward to facing him [Tanvir] in the Test," Sibanda said. "It would have been a challenge considering that the last time I played against him was a bit of a challenge. We were hoping he was going to play."

Without the threat of Tanvir, Zimbabwe's middle order will probably feel more at ease trying to put on a significant first innings score, which will serve them well as the match wears on, because of the nature of the pitch. "It's an unusual wicket, because it is also breaking up. It might have been a good toss to lose actually," Sibanda said. "Anything around 370 plus would be decent and psychologically it will play on their [Pakistan's] minds as well."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Joe on September 2, 2011, 12:55 GMT

    I have to say I though the ICC were having a laugh when they re-admitted Zim to test cricket but the the games so far have proved me to be hopelessly wrong! Well done guys for some terific performances including this latest batting marathon from Mawoyo fantastic concentration and application. I read he was coached by the elder Flower in his youth and it really shows in his batting. I'm off now to go and eat some humble pie :$ And yes DocBindra perhaps some Indian batsmen (Dravid aside) could watch and learn something?

  • Dummy4 on September 2, 2011, 10:50 GMT

    I wish Zimbabwe would thrash Pakistan and help throwing all the misfit people like misbah and mohsin khan out of the Team. I wish Afridi, Wahab riaz, Gul and Razzaq would be back as soon as possible

  • Dummy4 on September 2, 2011, 8:50 GMT

    @DocBindra thanks for showing loyalty to Zimbabwe , I am sure the indian team is losing fans with every match it loses...with this form even zimbabwe can give india a run for the money...but then india chooses the teams it wants to play...in its favorable conditions and agreements

  • Faisal on September 2, 2011, 8:13 GMT

    DicBindra: My sincere advice - instead of cheering Zimbabwe to thrash Pakistan, take care of your own team India, which is in real danger of suffering another humiliation in the ODI's in England.

  • Dummy4 on September 2, 2011, 6:07 GMT

    @ZahidSaltin we must get rid of the psychology that a bowler MUST take five wickets on debut to play for the national team. Bowlers are groomed and they don't necessarily produce results straight away. You have to persevere.

  • shahid on September 2, 2011, 5:23 GMT

    Shameful statement by Hafiz. You do not come just for learning while playing a test. I think Mohsan Khan should retire with respect otherwise soon he will be kicked by the fans. Sohail Khan, Chema have no potential at all. Talha, Sadaf, Rauf and Khalil are the bowlers who can be called a 2nd line after Wahab, Junaid and Gul. Even the final team selection by touring admin is bad. Tanvir and Junaid should have been accompanied by two spinners on this flate wicket. Misbah was too deffensive to not bat after winning the toss. Pakistan team is packed with non-performers both bowlers and batsmen. God save them from humulating defeat at the hands of Zim.

  • Dummy4 on September 2, 2011, 4:49 GMT

    this will be real test for misbah's captaincy, his disappointingly defensive mindset has really hurted us here. Even the commentators were saying when Ajmal came on to bowl, 'misbah is being overly defensive here' there was no attacking strategy, putting only 2 fielders around the bat! Pak should have batted first anyway

  • Saood on September 2, 2011, 4:35 GMT

    I think tomorrow we'll see Pakistan comeback and take control of this test match, they need to play confident and smart and not get riled just cuz Zimbabwe had a good day, not to take anything away from Zimbabwe i think their comeback is complete and they look ready to tour some of the bigger test nations.

  • kaiser on September 2, 2011, 3:02 GMT

    I have to say everybody's comments are fine about the selection. Mujammad Talha is next big thing but he has been ignore big time. selectors should be ashamed of their wisdom.

  • Sammy on September 2, 2011, 1:18 GMT

    Yawnnnn..........What happened to all the 'fast' bowlers of Pakistan? A spinner taking 3 wickets....this is blasphemy!

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