We were on top for a long time - Masakadza
Hamilton Masakadza, Zimbabwe's stand-in captain for the first Test against Pakistan, has urged the team "not to change too much" in the short turnaround ahead of the second match starting Tuesday against the same opposition at the same venue. Masakadza was pleased with both the batting and bowling efforts in the first innings and said if Zimbabwe built on those performances, they could continue to challenge Pakistan.
"There were definitely some positives. For us to take a 78-run lead after the first innings, for example, that was one of them," Masakadza said. "We were on top for a long time. It just shows that it doesn't take much for you to lose the game."
Zimbabwe were in a controlling position until the latter stages of Pakistan's second innings when Younis Khan powered his way to a double-hundred and shared in an unbeaten stand of 88 with No 11 Rahat Ali. "The partnership right at the end - that was what cost us," Masakadza said. "I didn't even expect them to be in a position to declare. I was wondering when we would finish them off and we just didn't."
Despite that, Masakadza did not believe Zimbabwe lacked the firepower needed to win a Test. "We took 19 wickets and we could have taken all 20 because we had two chances that we didn't take," he said. Younis was let off on 83 by Tino Mawoyo at first slip and on 117, Malcolm Waller put him down at gully. "We didn't have any problems creating chances. It's what you do after you create those chances. That's what we want to work on."
Masakadza praised the work put in by Zimbabwe's three frontline seamers, who kept the scoring-rate under three runs to the over. "They have improved a lot. In the past they didn't have this much control, especially for the period of time they were out there."
Between them, Tendai Chatara, Tinashe Panyangara and Shingi Masakadza bowled 97 of the 149.3 overs in the second innings, with Panyangara conceding only 1.40 runs per over. "I thought he was particularly good because he was not traditionally known as a workhorse but he showed he can do it," Masakadza said.
Panyangara was part of the group of youngsters who were fast-tracked into international cricket after the white-player walkout in 2004 but struggled to make an impact as an 18-year old. He was selected again for the 2011 World Cup but only began to register as a genuine possibility for the longest format recently, now that his fitness and form have improved considerably.
Masakadza hoped those gains would be on display in Panyangara's next showing, which would require him to recover quickly. With just two days between matches, Masakadza joked the bowlers will need "bed rest and maybe a drip" to ensure they can repeat or even better their showing next week.
It will likely fall on the same trio to carry Zimbabwe's hopes with Masakadza indicating changes to the pack would not be warranted unless there were injury concerns. Brian Vitori and the uncapped Michael Chinouya are available if needed but Zimbabwe would prefer not to tinker with a combination that worked.
Masakadza himself can do the work of a fifth bowler to render another specialist seamer surplus to requirements and Elton Chigumbura remains an option. However, the allrounder only bowled two overs in the first Test, and Masakadza explained he was picked only as a batsman because he has been "struggling" with the ball, although he may be called upon if needed.
With Prosper Utseya, who Masakadza called a "quality" spinner, likely to hold on to his slow-bowling role, the only adjustments will be made to the batting line-up. Regular captain Brendan Taylor is a certain starter and will slot back in at No 4 after missing the first match on paternity leave. But because both Malcolm Waller and debutant Sikandar Raza impressed, making room for Taylor could cost someone else his place.
Richmond Mutumbami, the wicketkeeper, may be dropped and Taylor asked to keep while there is also the possibility of Masakadza opening the batting in Tino Mawoyo's place to make room for Taylor. "We'll have to do something like that," Masakadza said. "But overall, we won't change too much."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent