Zimbabwe v Pakistan, 1st Test, Harare, 3rd day September 5, 2013

Younis defies buoyant Zimbabwe

75

Pakistan 249 and 168 for 4 (Younis 76*, Misbah 52) lead Zimbabwe 327 (Waller 70, Chigumbura 69, Raza 60, Ajmal 7-95) by 90 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

All through this Test match, there's been a wait for Zimbabwe's inexperienced team to falter. Sure they bowled well when the pitch was fresh in the first session of the game, but could they do it when the track eased up? They did. Sure they bowled well on the first day, but could their brittle batting stand up to Pakistan's highly rated bowling? They did.

The third day was supposed to be the best day for batting in Harare; would their new-look bowling be able to do the job? They certainly started well, bagging three early wickets to consolidate on the 78-run advantage they had after the first innings, causing plenty of excitement over the possibility of Zimbabwe's first Test win over a top eight side in 12 years.

Then they came up against the seasoned firefighters, Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan, who with some old-fashioned Test batting helped Pakistan erase the deficit. There has been a clamour in Pakistan for inducting more youngsters in the team, but it was Pakistan's two oldest batsmen who revived the side from a precarious 23 for 3 with a 116-run partnership.

Both Younis and Misbah were content with preserving their wicket, not searching for quick runs. They were happy to leave everything they could and put away the flashy shots - the reverse-sweep was brought only to counter a 7-2 leg-side field when offspinner Prosper Utseya was operating round the wicket. The pair neutralised Zimbabwe's limited attack for more than three hours and though they were plenty of half-chances - stumping appeals, inside-edges and bottom edges - the wicket proved elusive.

Younis ended the day unbeaten on 76, a significant innings for a man who had only one 50-plus score in his past 10 Test innings, and was phased out of the ODI side earlier this year. He has made his name as a man who scores when the team is down, a reputation he underlined with another combative innings.

Though the favourite adjective to describe Pakistan cricket is 'mercurial', there is one near certainty when they play - a Misbah half-century. In 10 of his past 13 international innings, he has passed 50, almost all of them after the top order has combusted. On none of those occasions has he gone on to a hundred, and he didn't today either.

Zimbabwe would have been downcast if Pakistan had gone to stumps with only three wickets down. Instead, soon after Misbah reached his fifty, he pushed a catch to cover. Zimbabwe knew just how big a moment it was. The bowler Shingi Masakadza set off on a celebratory run, before pumping his arms and screaming at the skies. In contrast, Misbah was on one knee, bat on the floor with his arms covering his face.

Younis and Shafiq safely negotiated the final 11 overs of the day, taking the lead to 90 and ensuring two specialist batsmen were still in the middle.

The rescue operation was needed after some good work from Zimbabwe's bowlers. As in the first innings, they produced the early breakthroughs not with magic deliveries but by sticking to the basics of line and length.

The sixth over of the innings, bowled by Tinashe Panyangara, which produced the wicket of Khurram Manzoor showcased their method of operation - pitching the ball up and constantly attacking the stumps, making the batsman play. With several deliveries swerving away in the over, Manzoor decided to shoulder arms to one, which turned out to be a straight ball that thudded onto his pads. It looked a touch high but the umpire thought otherwise, and for the second time in the game, Manzoor's innings ended early through a tough decision.

Azhar Ali, who played a vital role in rescuing Pakistan after their top-order failed in the first innings, couldn't do the job this time, as the accurate Panyangara had him trapped lbw for a duck. Neither of the opening bowlers provided any cheap runs, and Panyangara's figures read 7-4-6-2 at one stage.

Mohammad Hafeez has had a forgettable 2013 in Tests, and could have added a golden duck to his string of low scores this year, but his first-ball edge landed short of slips. He didn't last too long anyway, falling tamely after driving a low catch to short cover. His dismissal for 16 left him with a paltry 64 runs in eight innings this year.

That strikes only buoyed a resolute Zimbabwe, whose lower order had hung around for more than an hour in the morning session to fatten what had been a slender overnight lead. Saeed Ajmal's variations proved too much for them, though, and he wiped out the final three wickets to end up with a seven-for, the second of his career. His threat looms large over Zimbabwe over the next two days as well.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on September 7, 2013, 16:30 GMT

    Younas once again gas proved that he belongs to the class of those batsmen who will be remembered for their ability to perform in pressure. It can be said safely for this particular match that the difference between the two teams was Younas Khan. Put him and Ajmal aside, I see no difference between the two teams.

    And for Zimbabwe, they showed a super discipline in all the areas of match and didn't let their out of the ground struggle for their rights disturb their inside the ground struggle.

  • android_user on September 6, 2013, 10:47 GMT

    I have to completly agree with you greatest game and it is very nice to hear a non pakistani perspective. it is illogical and plain frustration that people take out on Misbah. they cant accept that their are no batsmen coming up and they somehow blame it on Misbah. Given that he bats at his pace, but all other batsmen needs to find their own pace. Like younis did. Misbah is a ntional treasure a leader and perhaps not just on the field but off it as well. To me he is the only person who brings respect of any kind to Pakistan.

  • Basharat12 on September 6, 2013, 10:23 GMT

    I reckon 250+ would be good score.....Pak need to bring Yousf back n d squad

  • SandipManjrekar on September 6, 2013, 9:36 GMT

    Super Special from Younis Khan under most difficult circumstances. You beauty man!!!!!!! Misbah & Younis are the two architect of PAK revival. Let's see where match pendulum goes.

  • Marktc on September 6, 2013, 9:22 GMT

    Is nobody going to give some credit to how well Zimbabwe are playing..

  • Captain_Tuk_Tuk on September 6, 2013, 8:35 GMT

    Thats why I wanted Younis Khan to stay as when he stays he scores big unlike Misbah who I knew will fall after 50 as he is just a hard worker but Younis Khan is real class I hope he can bat through the day and as many runs as possible at-least Pakistan can ensure that they don't lose this Test match and in second Test they can come-up with good team and at-least show some fight.

    And one last thing well played Zimbabwe Pakistan is an ordinary team no doubt but Zimbabwe looks very discipline in their bating, bowling and field placements.

  • dummy4fb on September 6, 2013, 7:21 GMT

    Ask any captain or a team to play away from home for continuous four years and earn a ranking of #4 ? that's why I respect Misbah and current team more than any Pakistani side that has ever played .. maybe we Pakistani fans need understand the cricket , its more of a game of nerves and feel than just smashing the red ball away ..!

  • Ray24 on September 6, 2013, 7:07 GMT

    Feel bad for Khurram Manzoor. He showed in his short stays that he can tackle the new ball, but he was given out incorrectly in both innings. DRS would've ruled over the decisions.

  • Solid_Snake on September 6, 2013, 6:50 GMT

    @all:We don't need these half centuries when it's of no use..It's not like Pak team cannot run without Misbah..Give a free hand to all other Players & let all of them do tuk tuk..You will see that players like Umer Akmal & other youngsters would start scoring 50's when playing like that.I dont remember when was the last time Misbah helped Pak chase down a total?All he do is complete his 50 & then bye bye...Back to the dressing Room..People Criticize Sachin for playing for his 100's..His 100's At least helps his team to win matches..Our Captain gets out always at the crucial moment when the team needs him the most.I have never seen any settled player getting out like that again & again & again.. Just answer this question: Misbah is the highest runs scorer in ODI's so far this year..How many matches Pak won out of all those matches in which Misbah scored a 50?Now i know the best argument i would get is that 'All other 10 players also have to perform & only Misbah cant be blamed"huh!

  • Greatest_Game on September 6, 2013, 3:44 GMT

    @ Solidsnake. Over the last 10 years, Pakistan has had four top tier test batsmen. Their averages are: Younis - 56.94, Yousuf - 55.27, Inzamam - 53.97, Misbah - 49.06. (For perspective, Misbah averaged 0.76 less than Tendulkar.) Over those ten years, Aus had 4 batsmen who averaged higher than Misbah, India had 3, SA 3, SL 2, WI 1, Eng 0, NZ 0, Zim 0, Bangladesh 0. (Minimum 15 matches, minimum 4 years played: Zim & Bang min 10 matches)

    Your criticism of Misbah is baseless and unjustified. It does not matter that he does not pile on big hundreds, it matters that he is consistent: more than any other, he is the man who gives Pakistan a platform, a chance of a decent score, the possibility of being competitive. The plain fact is that only Younis is better. There are no other batsmen for Misbah to put pressure on. From a non-Pakistani perspective, Misbah is a national treasure. For you to hate him is illogical, & that says everything about you, and nothing about Misbah!