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Zimbabwe fighting for survival in Bulawayo Test

Pakistan moved closer towards a clean sweep in the two-match Test series against Zimbabwe on the third day at Queens Sports Club. After gaining a lead of 225 on first innings, they reduced Zimbabwe to 171 for five wickets.

There was a quiet start to the morning as the overnight batsmen, Youhana and Kamran Akmal, completed their century partnership and continued to accumulate at their leisure, knowing they had time on their side and the bowling was never threatening. Runs came at an increasing rate, without the batsmen ever looking as if they were forcing the pace; there were enough loose balls for them to cruise.

Suddenly Mluleki Nkala produced a well-pitched ball on the stumps, to trap Kamran (56) lbw as he moved in front of his stumps. Pakistan were 346 for six in the 115th over, so the rate was approaching three an over for the first time. Soon afterwards Youhana on 141 enjoyed the fourth definite life of his innings, as Raymond Price put down a hard head-high return catch. Zimbabwe continued to be their on worst enemies. 73 runs came in the first hour of play, for one wicket in 15 overs.

It was finally the pitch that defeated Youhana, who had 159 off 285 balls in a six-hour innings when he was finally bowled by Price. The bounce on this pitch was always low but usually consistent, and this ball pitched on a good length squatted. It had been a determined innings but owed much to good fortune and Zimbabwean generosity in the field.

The long Pakistani tail was scarcely need with a lead already of over 200, which was just as well. Saqlain Mushtaq (14) chipped Raymond Price to mid-on, and Mohammad Sami (1) edged Andy Blignaut to slip. Shoaib hit lustily, and there was a brief comedy of errors when he hit Blignaut for a massive skyer that either Andy Flower or Henry Olonga could have reached with ease but, hindered by the sun, neither got near. Instead, the batsmen ran two and brought up the 400.

The innings finally closed at 403, when Waqar Younis (6) was well caught by Dion Ebrahim on the long-on boundary off Price, leaving Shoiab 9 not out. Pakistan therefore took a handsome lead of 225 on first innings, which could well be enough to win the match without the trouble of batting again. Price in his usual marathon on 51.3 overs took four wickets for 116 runs, while Olonga took three for 69.

There was time for two overs of the Zimbabwe second innings before lunch, which the openers survived.

Shoaib bowled the second over after lunch and Mark Vermeulen took full advantage of his attacking field, hitting four boundaries, the first an effortless perfectly-timed off-drive. Dion Ebrahim drove Waqar straight for four, but was then trapped lbw for 7 by a ball that came back off the pitch; Zimbabwe 28 for one.

Vermeulen's run spree came to a quick end on 26 as he, like Ebrahim, was beaten and trapped lbw playing half-forward to another off-cutter from Waqar. In the seventh over, Zimbabwe were 37 for two, so Pakistan's attacking policy was paying off.

Once again Zimbabwe relegated their best batsman to number five, with Grant Flower coming in ahead of Andy. Grant Flower dug in deep, while Campbell was more aggressive, playing some handsome drives but enjoying a life on 20 when dropped at second slip off Shoaib. He was at his best while driving, but could not resist briefly flirting with fire by trying to sweep Saqlain.

After that, sensible batting and the willingness to punish the loose ball took them safely through until tea, and they continued in the same vein afterwards. When on 35 Flower survived a confident appeal for a catch that the wicket off Waqar, with the television camera appearing to confirm umpire Orchard's decision as correct. Flower was batting with more fluency now and he caught Campbell when he reached 39.

Shoaib hit Flower on the foot with two vicious sandshoe crushers, and on the helmet with a bouncer, giving him a torrid time before going round the wicket and having the good fortune to bowl him off his pad, off stump. Flower made 43 in 148 minutes, in a partnership of 88 with Campbell.

As in the first innings, Shoaib's third spell, with the older ball, was much more lethal than his earlier spells. Campbell and Andy Flower had to fight for survival, and again Saqlain proved an ideal foil at the other end. Campbell was relieved to cut a rare loose ball to reach his fifty off 142 balls.

His unreliable concentration did not last much longer, though; trying to force Sami on the off side, he was bowled through the gate via the inside edge or 62; Zimbabwe 146 for four.

Hamilton Masakadza looked very short of confidence at first, but as he settled he managed to find the odd classy attacking stroke and actually overtook Andy Flower, who looked secure if not fluent. But off the last ball of the day Masakadza (16) was caught off bat-pad off Saqlain, boosting Pakistan's hopes of a four-day victory. Andy Flower, yet again condemned to bat with the tail, had 13.