Zimbabwe v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Harare September 8, 2013

Underprepared pitch causes concern

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An underprepared pitch is the biggest concern ahead of the second Test between Zimbabwe and Pakistan starting on Tuesday in Harare. The groundsmen have just two-and-a-half days after the first Test to prepare the surface after being informed last Thursday that the fixture would be moved from Bulawayo, and both Hamilton Masakadza and Misbah-ul-Haq expect a tough time in the middle.

"It's going to get a lot worse, a lot quicker," said Masakadza, who stood in as captain in the first Test and has played most of his domestic cricket at Harare Sports Club. "It's going to be tough for the groundsman with such a short turnaround and the spinners will definitely come into play much more in the second innings."

Turn was always predicted as a factor for the second Test, which was due to be played at Bulawayo's Queens Club, a venue known for its flat, dry strip. However, Zimbabwe Cricket announced the match would be moved to Harare because Queens was "not in a condition to host a Test," but ESPNcricinfo has learned the change in venue was actually a cost-cutting measure. Cash-strapped ZC will save more than US$50,000 in travel and hotel costs by playing the entire series of two Twenty20s, three ODIs and two Tests in Harare.

The strip being readied for the second Test is the one on the extreme right, when looking at the field from the clubhouse end of the ground. It was not used this summer and staff had begun rolling it during the ODIs against Pakistan in preparation for the domestic season.

Grant Flower, the Zimbabwe batting consultant, could not recall playing any international cricket on that pitch but said he had seen it in use during the domestic twenty-over competition some time ago. While he thought the first-Test pitch "played very well," he was also concerned about what the second one would do. "We know they will have something ready for us, we just don't know what to expect."

Groundstaff at Harare Sports Club have hosted back-to-back Tests before, as recently as six months ago. Bangladesh played two Tests at the venue between April 17 and 29. The first match went only four days which left four days of preparation for the second Test and it seemed enough. Spin was not a huge factor in the second match and 1,221 runs were scored with a highest total of 391 in the first innings.

Masakadza does not think run-scoring will be as easy this time, especially with the quality of the Pakistan spinners. Saeed Ajmal took 11 wickets in the first Test and Abdur Rehman claimed four. Prosper Utseya's five took the total number of spinners' scalps to 20 out of the 39 wickets that fell.

Run-scoring was below three an over on average throughout the Test, partly as a result of disciplined bowling and conservative tactics but also because the surface slowed. With patient batting a skill that still needs to be honed by the younger players on both sides, Misbah said he is worried about the temperament his team will need to show if they are to whitewash their hosts. "The pitch (is a) really big concern for us," Misbah said. "It's going to be tricky but we need to be prepared - especially mentally prepared - and we need to be professional."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on September 9, 2013, 13:43 GMT

    I am afraid that once again I will put forward the opinion that Zimbabwe should not be playing test cricket. One of the pre-requisites of being a test-match playing country is having the facilities and other infrastructure worthy of the highest form of the game. Clearly this is not the case.

  • Kangroos.Proteas.Monkeys.Lions on September 9, 2013, 13:34 GMT

    Zim is trying to win a game somehow and selecting pitch accordingly. I suspect doctoring as well as was witness against england in India. Zim should realize that they surprised world and pak both in first ODI and the first test and with their current stock they even struggled against indian junior team. This time pak will win with an innings to spare. Pakistan need not try young players. In case of india these so called young players who were tried alraedy have been in and out of the team and IPL has polished them a bit over long period of time. Unless there are side matches pak cannot try new faces with ease.

  • dummy4fb on September 9, 2013, 3:16 GMT

    To everyone calling for young talent to be tried, they must realize that there is a lot of young talent already in the squad. Junaid, Manzoor, Rehman, Azhar, Shafiq, Adnan, Rahat barely have 50 tests to their names combined. If they aren't given test exposure now, how will they perform against the giants.

  • Zahidsaltin on September 8, 2013, 19:34 GMT

    Isn't it too early to show concerns, some are even asking ICC to intervene. As its told, it is not the same wicket which they played the first test on. It is one which is being worked on since the first OD and is one which has been used in domestic competition. So what is that makes every one worry.

  • dummy4fb on September 8, 2013, 18:45 GMT

    This is the sort of pitch where one can expect batsmen like younis khan to bat for long perids.he specializes in batting on deteriortaing tracks and his figures batting in india and UAE are a testament of that.an underprepared track tilting more towards the spinners is only going to be advantageous for Pakistan even if Zimbabwe commence the 2nd test in the same manner as the first.the fact that there hasnt been much rain in harare is perhaps a good indicator that the square is going to be more abrasive.junaid khan must also be relishing the prospects of getting reverse swing in the next game.i do hope that we get a good test match regardless of the pitch and conditions.its heartening to hear that taylor and williams are going to be back for the 2nd test.anything that augments the challenge for the Pakistani bowlers is most welcome.

  • Cric_fever_forever on September 8, 2013, 14:37 GMT

    hmmmm pitch underprepared!!!!!!! can only expect low scoring test match

  • mensan on September 8, 2013, 13:37 GMT

    I don't think that the pitch will be dangerous to batsmen. It will just make batting tough which is good for test matches.

  • dummy4fb on September 8, 2013, 12:17 GMT

    An underprepared pitch can be very dangerous and costly to players and by extension , teams . Such conditions should not be acceptable by Team mangers , Captains or the ICC . Injuries are just around the corner in such bad conditions and will put players out of the game for long periods of time . The powers that be must make sure that the players get the best playing conditions at all times . The paying public demands a good test match on a well prepared surface .

  • HellDiver on September 8, 2013, 12:11 GMT

    Couldn't agree more with hamza893. If Pakistan won't try out young players against Zimbabwe, against whom are they going to try them out? South Africa???