1st Test, Harare

Zimbabwe v Pakistan, 2013-14

At Harare, September 3-7, 2013. Pakistan won by 221 runs. Toss: Zimbabwe. Test debut: Sikandar Raza.
It is hardly unprecedented for a team to dominate the first three and a half days of a Test before losing, but for Zimbabwe the scenario was genuinely surprising and hard to stomach. Pakistan required monumental performances from two veterans, Younis Khan and Saeed Ajmal, to wrench control from a team whose collective strength was built on stubborn determination and discipline, rather than flair - or indeed anything approaching an X-factor.

Ajmal was a virtual certainty to prosper, and without his haul of 11 for 118 - his second best in Tests - a Pakistan victory would have been impossible. Even Younis, who had seen just about everything in 14 years playing for the world's most protean team, wouldn't have forecast arriving at the crease in such a predicament, and then having to work so hard for his runs. Only after nine hours of studious graft was he able to cut loose and fly, handsomely, to his fourth Test double-hundred (Javed Miandad alone had made more for Pakistan). It allowed the spinners to wrap up the match just before lunch on the fifth day.

Zimbabwe's seam trio of Tendai Chatara, Tinashe Panyangara and Shingi Masakadza lacked genuine pace, but their accuracy and patience were unprecedented in the side's post-2004 era. Azhar Ali spent almost four and a half hours compiling 78, but his colleagues were either impatient or careless; Misbah-ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq paid the price for attacking Utseya's underrated off-spin. At 182 for eight, Pakistan were in horrible trouble on a good pitch, before Ajmal cannily nudged and whacked the total to semi-respectability.

Ajmal was a virtual certainty to prosper
The Zimbabweans' hopes of a decisive lead were undone, almost inevitably, by Ajmal, who dismissed all three half-centurions among his collection of seven for 95; their number included Sikandar Raza, a 27-year-old whose family had emigrated from Sialkot to Harare, and who made his debut when Brendan Taylor withdrew to be with his wife and new baby boy. Ajmal's doosra was, at times, far too good, and earned him four wickets.Nevertheless, Zimbabwe's lead of 78 appeared sufficient when Pakistan crashed to 23 for three. Misbah's rescue attempt ended on 52, with a soft drive to cover. And when Asad Shafiq was bowled by a Chatara off-cutter, with Pakistan five down and leading by just 91, they required something out of the ordinary. Younis, however, was just getting started.

Adnan Akmal made light of the situation by reverse-sweeping with joyous freedom. His stand of 118 with Younis, who was missed by close catchers on 83 and 117, changed the game. Akmal was run out in a ridiculous mix-up but, once the lead passed 250, Younis sensed safety and unclipped the shackles. Even so, an unbroken tenth-wicket stand of 88 exceeded expectations: last man Rahat Ali, preferred in the Test squad to Mohammad Irfan, clubbed three sixes, and Misbah was able to give Younis a few extra overs to strive for 200. He got there with a mountainous six, over midwicket off Utseya - his third, to go with 15 fours in 404 balls. The eventual target of 342 was far beyond Zimbabwe.

When Mawoyo played back to Ajmal's doosra with what became the last ball of the fourth day, the gloom of predictable defeat hung heavily. Junaid Khan was excellent next morning, and Pakistan's spinners wasted little time wrapping up a win which had seemed unlikely when Younis was battening down the hatches on the third evening.
Man of the Match: Younis Khan.

© John Wisden & Co.