Butcher laments dropped catches
Alan Butcher, Zimbabwe's coach, singled out dropped catches as the reason for his team squandering their chance of being competitive in the latter stages of the Test against Pakistan. Zimbabwe dropped six catches in Pakistan's first innings and conceded a lead of 54 runs, after they had scored an impressive 412 themselves.
"Catching probably cost us a chance of winning," Butcher said. "We had every reason to believe that we would get a first-innings lead." Mohammad Hafeez, who was Pakistan's only centurion, was dropped twice, while Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan and Umar Akmal were also put down. The bulk of the missed chances were relatively simple and Brendan Taylor said the team felt a general "frustration" at not taking their opportunities.
They were less hard on themselves for the batting collapse in the second innings, which resulted in Pakistan being given a small target to chase. "On this wicket there was always potential for a collapse," Butcher said. "[Saeed] Ajmal will cause better teams than ours some problems but we were disappointed to lose so many wickets to Hafeez in the second innings, because we thought he didn't spin it that much."
Hafeez took four middle- and lower-order wickets after Ajmal had bagged three, with Aizaz Cheema chipping in with one. After slumping 69 for 8 on the fourth day, defeat appeared certain for Zimbabwe, but Tatenda Taibu's stubborn half-century gave them slim hope of posting a defendable total. "We wanted to try and bat a session, bat some time out of the game and then chip away and build a lead," Taylor said. "We knew anything could happen given their [Pakistan's] history."
For a change, "anything" did not happen and Pakistan went on to record a routine victory. Zimbabwe lost by a smaller margin than the last time they played Pakistan - a 10-wicket defeat in Bulawayo in 2002 - and instead of dwell on the defeat they are opting to zone in on other aspects of their game as they look to rebuild a reputation in Test cricket.
"There are a lot of positives to take out of this," Taylor said "I wouldn't say more than the Bangladesh game, but there are definitely positives. It was good to see us bat for 150 overs." Butcher also lauded the first innings effort, in particular Tino Mawoyo's maiden Test century. "Having an opening batsman bat through an innings was good."
Ajmal proved the major threat of the match, and tested Zimbabwe right through the first innings, even when the pitch had yet to show cracks. Butcher was pleased with the way Zimbabwe tried to withstand his assault. "We said if he is going to get a lot of wickets, then we will make him bowl a lot of overs for it and we made Ajmal bowl 50 overs to get his four wickets."
The Zimbabwe bowlers had a tough time on an unresponsive strip and Taylor thought, "The spinners worked hard together and showed good character," while Butcher was impressed that, "having conceded so quickly at the start to have pulled it back was also good."
Zimbabwe's inexperienced seam attack of Brian Vitori, Kyle Jarvis and Chris Mpofu took a pasting, managing only four wickets between them. Vitori, the nation's wonderkid after his performances against Bangladesh, did not snag a single victim. "There were high hopes for him after Harare, he is hungry to learn," Taylor said. "He has a great attitude and he will be back."
Butcher said the unhelpful surface will only aid Vitori's development. "It took him a lot longer to find his length," he said. "He has probably been brought back down to earth after his spectacular start but it was always going to happen." While Vitori was expensive, Jarvis and Mpofu leaked a little less and Taylor said the pair could "hold their heads up high" for a brave showing.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent