Zimbabwe v Pakistan, only Test, Bulawayo, 3rd day September 3, 2011

'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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Khalid on September 4, 2011, 10:19 GMT

    Painstakingly slow is the best way I can describe Pakistan's batting. I cant understand why Misbah opted to field after winning the toss followed by this snail paced batting. It seems as if there was no planning at all and they were out there just to play out for a draw. I am also amazed why Umer Akamal keeps getting preferance over Asad Shafiq despite have developed a habit of letting the team down at crucial times. When will PCB and the sellectors realize that talent is not enough, one also needs to have brains to be playing at this level and frankly speaking Umer is just that "a talented player with no brains'. He surely has got enough opportunities to prove himself and has failed so we must move on and tr6y Asad instead.

  • Dummy4 on September 4, 2011, 6:54 GMT

    If they wanted to bat once then they should have run the opposition into the ground by batting first after winning the toss. Then batting second we needed a faster run rate not the kind of innings Younis Khan is playing. There seems to be no plan. 3 days for 15 wickets!!, how do the plan to get the lead and the remaining wickets. It seems the intention was never there. Pakistan needs to get serious with test cricket with the limited opportunities they get. It seems that they are here for the one day series and were not ready for the test and took it as anamally rather then the exception.

  • khurram on September 4, 2011, 6:17 GMT

    well i would still say dont hit run a ball but strike rate of 45/46 isnt that risky or fast. younis & azhar did strike @ 30s they should have get atlast 20 runs each with ease. now umar gone it wil be difficult to score fast to get healthy lead. agree about azahr he always plays nearly 200 balls but the fell so that way he wont b able to make any 100.

  • Khair ul on September 3, 2011, 23:46 GMT

    Tino's catch was an absolute sitter and Zimbabwe would have been out for below 300. It would have been an entirely different game. I say give some buckets to the Pakistan fielder for catching practice.

  • Dummy4 on September 3, 2011, 18:49 GMT

    If this is the plan, then they are not playing according to it. They should have atleast got a 50 run lead till now.

  • shahid on September 3, 2011, 18:38 GMT

    Dropped catches have changed it all. Even Tino could have been out for under 10 and then again a couple of times. And then every pakistani bat except Azhar Ali got early life. Were all the catches held, the match could have been finished on day 4.

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