Zimbabwe Tests ideal preparation for SA - Younis
Younis Khan rated the quality of Zimbabwe's bowlers so highly that he regards the two-Test series in Harare as ideal preparation for Pakistan's next challenge against the No.1 ranked Test team. Pakistan take on South Africa in the UAE after the Zimbabwe leg wraps up and Younis hopes the experience gained here can be put to good use on that assignment.
"The Zimbabweans bowled so well, they made it difficult for us, it's definitely good practice for us when we get back to Dubai," Younis said. "Also, the wicket is very good so we can really get some time but they are making it tough for us to score runs."
Although Zimbabwe's attack did not profit as much as they did on the first day, when there was still something in the surface, as they tied Pakistan down to a scoring rate of 2.4. Hamilton Masakadza, the Zimbabwe captain, was pleased with the effort on a pitch that was at its best for batting. "The guys bowled really well, they applied themselves, they stuck at it and that was good to see," he said.
Having had Pakistan at 23 for 3, Zimbabwe may have hoped to limit them even further but Masakadza said Younis, in particular, made that tough. "He put us under pressure because he was not just looking to be there, he was also looking for run-scoring opportunities," Masakadza said. "We had to set more defensive fields as well."
Younis and Misbah-ul-Haq shared a fourth-wicket stand of 116 to get Pakistan out of trouble but the old hands' rescue act was not simply a cause for celebration. Their ongoing efforts to steady Pakistan points to an over-reliance on seniors and raises concerns about the next generation. Younis is hopeful they will improve with time.
"Test cricket is all about patience and the young guys, sometimes they come from ODIs and Twenty20s so they need to learn," Younis said. "It's for the senior players like myself and Misbah and [Mohammad] Hafeez to help them and we are here to do that. The other thing is that we are not playing Test cricket regularly, the last time was almost six months ago. You need to play regularly to learn."
Pakistan's call for more Test cricket has been made on numerous occasions, especially by Misbah in South Africa in March. Younis has not played international cricket since then and most of the squad has been occupied with one-day competitions. That's why, according to Younis, the trip to Zimbabwe is so important for them. "This is what we need and we are enjoying playing here," he said.
As much as the experience of it is worthwhile for Pakistan, getting the expected results is also important and Younis is confident they can beat Zimbabwe in the longest format as well as they did in the shorter ones. Asked what he thought was a defendable total, he said, "Anything," before qualifying that to, "something like 200 or 300. Anything."
Younis believes the pitch will take more turn, "especially towards the end," but Masakadza remains hopeful it will not be much more. He said the cracks have only opened a touch, with "nothing too frightening at this stage," and thinks Zimbabwe could chase something "around 250."
Still, he is wary of Saeed Ajmal, after the spinner took seven wickets in the first innings. "We know he is going to be their main threat and the guys have their plans," Masakadza said. "Some will be looking to use the sweep and others to play as straight as possible. But I'm feeling pretty confident."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent