Pakistan overwhelmed Zimbabwe in the second one-day international at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo, again humiliating a bankrupt bowling line-up. Their highlights were a century from Saleem Elahi, a remarkable innings by Yousuf Youhana, and a lethal opening spell from Wasim Akram. The margin, determined by Duckworth-Lewis, was a deceptively small 104 runs.
The Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo was again hot and sun-drenched as Zimbabwe took on Pakistan in the second one-day international. As they did the previous day, Pakistan won the toss and decided to bat on a pitch that looked to have slightly more grass, but still proved very favourable to batsmen.
Both teams made two changes, but Pakistan were clearly rotating their players. Younis Khan and Shoaib Akhtar made way for Faisal Iqbal and Saqlain Mushtaq. Zimbabwe left out both opening bowlers, Henry Olonga, who did not bowl well, and Andy Blignaut, who suffered a leg strain. They brought in schoolboy Waddington Mwayenga, a recent Under-19 player completely untried at the top level, and Mluleki Nkala, whose bowling form has been poor.
Play seemed almost to be an action replay of the first match, with Pakistan slaughtering the wayward Zimbabwe bowling, except that this time no early wicket fell and the opening pair put on 159 together st five runs an over. Pakistan were determined this time to put up a total well beyond Zimbabwe's reach, and some thrilling batting ensued as they amassed a mammoth total of 344 for five and showing up Zimbabwe's bowlers for what they were worth - precious little.
Mluleki Nkala, whose bowling has been disappointing recently, raised hopes briefly by beating Taufeeq Umar in his opening over, but proceeded to bowl too short and paid the penalty. Zimbabwe lost a golden opportunity to dismiss Taufeeq for 15 when he skyed an attempted pull off Sean Ervine, but Tatenda Taibu hesitated fatally and failed to judge the catch. Ervine was a little more accurate than Nkala, but not enough to put any pressure on the batsmen. Pace, movement and accuracy are three vital attributes in opening bowlers: few have all three, but the seamers currently selected to take the new ball by Zimbabwe display none of them.
Debutant Waddington Mwayenga in his first over did show the ability to bowl a full length. Saleem Elahi for once made most of the early running with the bat, outscoring Taufeeq and aided by the spray-gun Zimbabwe bowling. He ran to his fifty off 48 deliveries, followed by a century off 99 deliveries. Richie Sims might have trapped Taufeeq lbw for 42, but umpire David Orchard was possibly programmed not to expect any wickets to fall.
Grant Flower finally took the first wicket, in the 33rd over, bowling Saleem (107) behind the legs as he tried to sweep. It was an outstanding innings, his highest in one-day internationals, and assured Pakistan of a major total. Taufeeq finally reached his fifty off 93 balls, with Shahid Afridi as his new partner.
Afridi gave Mwayenga a quick lesson, hitting him for two successive sixes over the covers, and powered his way to 30 off 18 balls before skying Grant Flower to his brother Andy, who judged the catch well at long-off. Grant finished his ten overs with two wickets for 54; again, this was to prove Zimbabwe's most economical figures.
Mwayenga took some heavy punishment from batsmen well set, tending to overpitch slightly, but that is better than bowling short, and he was much straighter than the other seamers. This match was a harsh introduction to international cricket for him and probably came earlier than was ideal, but he did enough to show he should have a bright future in the game.
Youhana played some daring attacking strokes, hitting four sixes in his first 27 runs. He lost Taufeeq for 76, caught at long-off in Craig Evans's first over, the 43rd of the innings, to make Pakistan 252 for three. Wasim Akram (1) was promoted, but only succeeded in hitting Evans straight to long-on, while Azhar hit a quick 18 and Kamran Akmal 23 not out.
Youhana continued his blazing innings, reaching his fifty off only 23 balls, and finishing with an amazing 76 off only 33 balls, with eight sixes, most of them well over the boundary, and three fours. The final total of 344 for five was second only to South Africa's 363 for three a year earlier.
Zimbabwe immediately lost Stuart Matsikenyeri to the first ball he faced, declared lbw to Wasim Akram by umpire Orchard, and as 24 hours earlier it was a decision that might have gone the other way. Then the unbelievable happened: Wasim brought a ball back to Andy Flower, who also hadn't scored, and bowled him through the gate. Zimbabwe were three for two wickets.
It was the sort of situation that sometimes brings out the best in Alistair Campbell, and he leapt down the pitch to hammer Waqar Younis furiously to the long-off boundary. But he quickly retreated into mediocrity. Wasim and Waqar again bowled superbly, though, and it required the utmost concentration even to survive. The bowling attacks of the respective teams were definitely on different planets.
Wasim struck a third time by forcing Grant Flower (1) to play a ball on to his stumps, apparently beaten for pace; in the same over Barney Rogers edged a ball to the keeper; 20 for four. Craig Evans scored 4 before snicking Waqar into the slips, and the fighting spirit shown the day before seemed to have been replaced by a fatalistic resignation.
Tatenda Taibu's confident walk to the wicket, though, showed that he did not intend to give up without a fight. His confidence put his seniors in the order to shame as he played his shots, especially the cut, fearlessly. Zimbabwean supporters were given the hope of gaining a totally undeserved draw by the advance of rainclouds, and Pakistan were worried enough to put on their spinners and improve their usually dismal over rate.
Even Campbell suddenly decided he had something positive to offer, hitting Saqlain into the top row of the MCA stand, where the third spectator catch of the day was dropped, and then lashed him over mid-off for four. Then in the following over he fell to a typically soft dismissal, chipping Afridi gently to midwicket. He made 32, and Zimbabwe were 64 for six.
Sean Ervine, like Taibu, showed fight and even greater belligerence, and however good the spinners life in the middle was certainly easier without Wasim and Waqar at the bowling crease. He launched a remarkable attack on those who did take the crease, scorning to take the offer of bad light, and raced to a sparkling fifty off just 30 balls.
At 133 for six off 32 overs a light spell of rain drove the players from the field. On their return 15 minutes later Wasim returned to bowl, although the light hardly looked suitable. However the batsmen scored seven runs confidently off his over before the rain returned. Ervine finished unbeaten with a 61 that should have given him immense confidence, and Taibu 30. Unfortunately there was no such hope evident in the bowling.