IN FOCUS – Pakistan in Zimbabwe Test series 2013 : Preview

  This will only be the fourth Test series of the 2013 season, and the second involving Zimbabwe. As expected, it is a two-match series, but thankfully at least it is going ahead after serious doubts of it being cancelled due to the ongoing Zimbabwean players salary issue.

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The Matches

  The short series will consist of two back-to-back Tests – the first at the Harare Sports Club from September 3-7 and the second at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo from September 10-14. Pakistan have played four times and won thrice at each of the two venues. Their only loss came at Harare in 1994-95, their very first Test in Zimbabwe.

Head To Head and Recent Record

  Pakistan and Zimbabwe have played 15 Tests against each other since 1993-94, with Pakistan winning 9, Zimbabwe 2 and four games being drawn. In Zimbabwe, Pakistan have won 6 and lost only once in 8 Tests since 1994-95. Pakistan have won their last three Tests against Zimbabwe – the two-Test series of 2002-03 in Zimbabwe by a margin of 2-0 and the one-off Test at Bulawayo in 2011. Zimbabwe’s most recent – and only second – win over Pakistan came at Peshawar in 1998-99, a win which resulted in their first overseas series victory.  

Form Book and Ranking

  Zimbabwe have been understandably below-par since their return to Test cricket in 2011. At the end of the last season, they surrendered meekly to the West Indies away, losing the two-Test series 2-0. At the start of the current season, they crushed Bangladesh in the first Test of a home series, only to lose the the second and manage a drawn 1-1 result. A small positive for the hosts is that irrespective of their performance in the series against Pakistan, they will re-enter the ICC Test rankings table at the 9th rank, one spot above bottom-placed Bangladesh. In spite of having a talented bunch, off-field issues and politics continue to dog them, thus affecting the mental aspect of their game. Their last series win (excluding one-off matches) came back in 2003-04 against Bangladesh.

  Pakistan too have played a disappointingly low number of Test matches of late. In the previous season, they played only two series, and lost both – 0-1 in a three-Test series in Sri Lanka followed by a 0-3 whitewash in South Africa. Their last Test win came back in February 2012, when they memorably blanked England 3-0 in the UAE. Their last Test match and Test series wins overseas came in Bangladesh in 2011-12. Their last away Test match win over a ‘Top-8’ side came against the West Indies at Basseterre in 2011. At the moment though, they are ranked a respectable 4th in the Test table, one point ahead of 5th-placed Australia.

Players To Watch Out For

  The last time Zimbabwe played Pakistan in a Test, in 2011, they had run the visitors quite close in the first innings before a second-innings collapse derailed hopes of an upset. That they could manage to stretch Pakistan was primarily due to opener Tino Mawoyo, who carried his bat for 163* in only his second Test and is a refreshing change from most of Zimbabwe’s batsmen, in the sense he tends to play for long hours with lots of application. He is back from an injury and Zimbabwe will really need his presence at the top to negate the threat of the Pakistani bowling attack. The fact that captain Brendan Taylor may miss the first Test (paternity leave)  makes Mawoyo’s role all the more important.

Tino          The return of opener Tino Mawoyo will lend some much-needed stability to the Zimbabwean top-order (source – deccanchronicle.com)

  Asad Shafiq is turning out to be a dependable No.6 in the Pakistani line-up, and he will be looking to impress further in this series. He had scored a century at Cape Town during Pakistan’s forgettable tour of South Africa in February, and his solid technique lends effective support to the seasoned hands such as captain Misbah ul-Haq and Younis Khan, two batsmen from whom he will most probably take over the mantle of Pakistan’s middle-order lynch-pin once they retire. 

Prediction

  Zimbabwe’s recent improvement in the ODI series notwithstanding, Pakistan are clear favourites to win the series due to their all-round strength. My gut feeling says that Pakistan will take the series 1-0, with Zimbabwe snatching a draw in one of the two Tests. 

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