'Plan is to bat once' - Azhar Ali
Pakistan do not want to bat last in Bulawayo on a pitch that is expected to break up as the match wears on. After bowling Zimbabwe out for 412, Pakistan closed day three 55 runs behind on a day of measured batting from four of the five batsmen.
"That is the plan [to bat once]," Azhar Ali said. "The wicket was quite flat to start with but it's got slower and slower and it's become quite tough to drive the ball. Even when you do drive it, it's difficult to get away." Ali, whose 75 runs came off 193 balls in over four hours, thinks that batting will become more difficult and expects the spinners to play a deciding role in the result of this match.
Greg Lamb, who was Zimbabwe's highest wicket-taker with three scalps, got a fair amount of turn on the third day, but it was the veteran Ray Price who according to Ali "made the difference." Price conceded 29 runs off his first 30 overs and proved almost impossible to get away. Ali started having trouble against him yesterday and arrived at the ground early on the third morning to work on his strategy for facing Price. He had a net session with his captain, Misbah-ul-Haq. "We were working on picking up the lengths and getting the footwork right," Ali said.
Price got no reward, in wicket-terms, for his strangling effort, but was not concerned with the number in that particular column. "It's my job to try and keep the runs down so I have to do that," he said. "We were happy that they didn't score too quickly."
With the spinners proving the only threat, Price said it was a testing day for Zimbabwe's young seam attack of Brian Vitori and Kyle Jarvis, particularly Vitori who was expensive early on. "I think he got a bit of a shock coming here from Harare Sports Club because it's flat as a table here," Price said. "But he is learning quickly. In his second spell he held it back a bit and his third spell tonight was very good." Vitori took the second new ball towards the end of the day and bowled four overs for 15 runs, in which he got some to shape in to the right-hander.
The three seamers have just one wicket between them so far but Price said they had been suitably warned about the conditions they will have to battle in Bulawayo. "We've had to tell them that there are a few seamers buried in the outfield here, it is tough work." Their lack of success has also caused the young captain, Brendan Taylor, some frustration as he ran out of ideas to take wickets, especially after four catches were put down today.
Taylor looked flustered at the time but Price praised the captain's strategy. "He is learning to trust his gut and he is doing quite well. He is trying different field placings and a few things here and there," he said. "With a young attack, he also has to try not to shout at them too much."
The bulk of the responsibility will rest on Price and Lamb, to skittle what remains of the Pakistan line-up. Price has called for a team effort, warning his colleagues that they have to make inroads early tomorrow morning, because "Pakistan's spinners spin the ball more than I do and it will be difficult to bat."
Despite the danger of Saeed Ajmal, Price indicated that Zimbabwe will not go into a shell and bat for the draw. "We will definitely play for the win," Price said. "I don't think we can get a draw unless they bat really slowly tomorrow morning but I think their tail will play a few shots."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent