The second Test between Pakistan and Zimbabwe will begin tomorrow in Harare behind closed doors due to Covid-19. Pakistan romped to a thumping victory against the below-par Zimbabwe side as the hosts lost by an innings and looked out of sorts.
Hasan Ali looks in great touch and emerged as the chief tormentor in the first Test and took nine wickets and also reached the milestone of 50 Test wickets in record time. His heroics heralds him leading the pace battery in future tours. Ali's 5/36 helped seal the contest in three days.
It will require a herculean effort from Zimbabwe to recover from the crushing defeat and compete in the second Test as the tourists are riding high with confidence.
Spinners didn't have much say in the first Test and Nauman Ali boiled it down to low temperatures and conditions for not helping him extract much turn off the surface, forcing him to stick to a tighter line and length. Add to the fact that the Pakistan fast bowling spearheads didn't allow spinners to bowl for longer spells.
The Babar Azam-led Pakistan is mulling including Shahnawaz Dhani and Zahid Mehmood in the final Test of the series. Tabish Khan, the veteran domestic giant, has been waiting on the fringes for a long time and is a tempting option for the final Test.
Zimbabwe would plan to use the new ball better and Blessing Muzarabani alongside Donald Tiripano must pick early wickets to put pressure on Pakistan which is one way to challenge the well-oiled Pakistan team The home side must have a clear plan against the unflappable Fawad Alam who scored a gritty knock of 140 and diminished Zimbabwe's hopes of staging a comeback in the first match. One thing is for sure, if Fawad gets settled again then he will make sure to make it count and show his penchant for scoring tons.
The inexperienced batting line-up of Zimbabwe will aim to apply themselves better and find ways to deal with the reverse swing of Hasan Ali and be disciplined around the corridor of uncertainty. It will be much of the same barrage from Pakistan strike bowlers but having a good look at the fiery speedsters in the first game, the hosts' batsmen should back themselves to see off the new ball and convert their starts to substantial scores.
Zimbabwe's stalwarts and the lynchpins in the middle-order, Brendan Taylor and regular captain Sean Williams can certainly absorb the pressure and bat through long periods of time. The duo's stay on the crease for one session after another could inspire the other unseasoned batsmen to make handy contributions. Tarisai Musakanda and Roy Kaisa's batting was a bright spot and if they can back themselves, knit partnerships with the two veterans in the side, Zimbabwe could create some problems as they did in the T20I series opener not long ago.
One worry for Pakistan has been the lukewarm performance from Faheem Ashraf against an untaxing opposition, he went wicketless in the first innings and just took the wicket of Roy Kaia the second time around. Sajid Khan didn't have the best of starts in his International career and it remains to be seen if he will get another go in a non-spin conducive track.
"We will decide the final eleven from the 13 players that we have shortlisted for tomorrow's match. I think there is a lot of gap in Test matches and we can do more shuffling in white-ball cricket but in Test cricket, there is like two months gap and we want to continue with our settled side," said Babar Azam.
"We came about a week before the series to adjust to the weather and (conditions) while the team was playing T20 series and had rigorous net sessions. The weather is cold over here which is why we are not getting as much turn but we are trying to keep our line and length consistent," said Nauman Ali.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Imran Butt, Abid Ali, Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Saud Shakeel, Agha Salman, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Tabish Khan, Hasan Ali, Shahnawaz Dhani, Nauman Ali, Zahid Mahmood, Sajid Khan
Zimbabwe: Sean Williams (captain), Regis Chakabva, Tendai Chisoro, Tanaka Chivanga, Luke Jongwe, Roy Kaia, Kevin Kasuza, Wellington Masakadza, Prince Masvaure, Tarisai Musakanda, Blessing Muzarabani, Richard Ngarava, Victor Nyauchi, Milton Shumba, Brendan Taylor, Donald Tiripano