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Tour and tournament reports

Zimbabwe vs Pakistan 2020-21

A review of Zimbabwe vs Pakistan 2020-21

Liam Brickhill
Hasan Ali ripped through the Zimbabwe line-up, Zimbabwe vs Pakistan, 1st Test, Harare, 1st day, April 29, 2021

Hasan Ali ripped through the Zimbabwe line-up  •  Zimbabwe Cricket

Twenty20 internationals (3): Zimbabwe 1, Pakistan 2 Test matches (2): Zimbabwe 0, Pakistan 2
More than seven years on from their previous Test series in Zimbabwe, Pakistan began the second leg of their trip in high spirits after winning both white-ball series in South Africa. They left Zimbabwe in much the same mood, having overcome what resistance the hosts offered in the T20 series, and flattened them in the two Tests. Their opponents, of course, were expected to put up even less of a fight than their southern neighbours, and Pakistan's coach Misbah-ul-Haq called Zimbabwe a side with "nothing to lose". But it would not be true to suggest they had nothing to play for.
They were still reeling from the news, which broke a week before the first T20, that their former captain and coach Heath Streak had been banned for eight years because of corruption, and were desperate to change the headlines. They nearly did so, pushing Pakistan hard in the 20-over games, despite the absence of several key players. Brendan Taylor missed the first T20 through illness, while Sean Williams - Zimbabwe's regular captain - was ruled out of the Tests by a hand injury. Craig Ervine played only in the first T20, when he strained a calf muscle, and opening batsman Prince Masvaure missed the Second Test with a fractured thumb.
Sikandar Raza, meanwhile, the talismanic all-rounder whose mere presence had for years bolstered Zimbabwe's self-belief, had been struck down with a bone-marrow infection in his right arm on the squad's return from the UAE. There were fears the problem might be cancerous, but mercifully they proved groundless. This lengthy injury list gutted the middle order, and it was the batting that repeatedly let them down: Regis Chakabva alone passed 50 in the Tests. Of the replacements and newcomers, only all-rounder Luke Jongwe, recalled after a five-year absence from international cricket, acquitted himself well; his four wickets set up Zimbabwe's unlikely win in the second T20.
Pakistan had no such problems. In every match bar that defeat, at least one member of their top order made a decisive contribution, exemplified by Mohammad Rizwan's excellence in the T20 series, which brought him 186 runs from 139 balls for once out, and Abid Ali's unbeaten 215 in the Second Test.
The bowlers shared the spoils and outclassed their opponents, none more so than Hasan Ali, finally resembling the exciting cricketer who had burst on to the international scene in 2016. He produced a match-turning spell in the T20 decider, and ran rampant across the two Tests, taking 14 wickets at just under nine apiece. Shaheen Shah Afridi was not far behind, with ten at 16. Babar Azam had a quiet tour by his standards, with one fifty in five innings, but took his tally as captain of a new-look Test team to four wins out of four.