Hosts Zimbabwe missed the chance to pile the pressure on Pakistan by dropping five catches as the tourists piled up 357 for five in their first-innings thanks to Mohammad Hafeez's first away ton on the third day of the one-off Test in Bulawayo.
Zimabwe, all out for 412 in their innings, were also left ruing a fumbled run-out opportunity that could have slowed Pakistan's bid to build on an overnight score of 116 for one. Umar Akmal's dismissal on the last ball of the day provided some hope for the hosts who will be looking to get into the visitors' tail today.
Hafeez and Azhar build on
Earlier, Hafeez and Azhar Ali built a solid 188-run second-wicket partnership for Pakistan, that saw the in-form opener get two lucky escapes on his way to his third Test century. However, Hafeez's luck ran out two balls from lunch when on 119 he was dismissed by Hamilton Masakadza. Hafeez's 119 included 17 fours and also saw him pass the 1000-run landmark.
Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor persisted with seamers through most of the morning with Chris Mpofu bowling ten straight overs but finally opted for a change of tactics when he brought on Masakadza and it duly paid off with Hafeez's rush of blood.
Ali's vigil came to an end when on 75 he was caught by former captain Tatenda Taibu off Lamb. However, the seasoned Younus Khan and captain Misbahul Haq built up a painstaking partnership of exactly 100 runs for the fifth wicket before the captain was dismissed for 66.
Younus was unbeaten on 61 off 193 deliveries and will be joined by Adnan Akmal today, as Pakistan look to overtake Zimbabwe's total.
Hafeez felt that despite Pakistan's slow progress, the visitors had a good chance of forcing a positive result.
"The pitch is getting slower and if we can get some lead, we can put pressure on Zimbabwe," he said. "All credit to them for playing a disciplined game at the moment."
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2011.