Harare: Younis Khan again thwarted Zimbabwe with an unbeaten 52 to take Pakistan to 163 for 3 at stumps on day two of the second Test on Wednesday, cutting the host's lead to 131 in the decider at Harare Sports Club.
Younis followed up his game-changing double century in Pakistan's victory in the first Test with a watchful half-century off 127 balls, and settled the tourists with an unbroken 67-run stand with skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, who was 27 not out.
Younis also became the fourth Pakistan player to pass 7,000 runs in Tests. Pakistan had lost opener Khurram Manzoor for 51 to a careless run out early in the final session for 96 for 3, giving the Zimbabweans a glimmer of hope of taking control in a game they must win to avoid a fifth series defeat in seven since the strugglers returned to test cricket in 2011.
Younis responded with a typically measured innings, hitting six fours and ensuring - most importantly - that he batted through the session to take Pakistan to the end with seven wickets still intact. Misbah was alongside him and the experienced pair was threatening to replicate the partnership they produced to set up Pakistan's victory in the first Test.
Zimbabwe desperately needs quick wickets on day three to have a chance of swinging this Test in their favor again.
Zimbabwe's tailenders had frustrated Pakistan at the start of day two, with the last two wickets producing 60 runs and the last pair 46 as the host showed some fight after being 203 for 7 and 237 for 8 overnight.
No. 9 Tinashe Panyangara highlighted the late rally with his 24 from 28 balls with four fours, and Zimbabwe's last four batters added 86 runs to push it to a decent total, especially with the well-worn Harare pitch likely to deteriorate and get harder and harder to bat on having only hosted the first Test days ago.
Seamer Junaid Khan led Pakistan's bowlers with 4 for 67 and spinner Abdur Rehman had 3 for 47.
In its reply, Pakistan lost the out-of-touch Mohammad Hafeez for 22 after he was in flowing run-making form before lunch, only to fall straight after the midday break. Azhar Ali was out for 7 lbw to Panyangara (1 for 30).
Manzoor knuckled down for his fourth test 50 but, like Hafeez, gave it away at the very beginning of a session when he wandered down the pitch straight after tea - expecting Younis to run a single - and then failed to scramble back when his partner declined the run. Elton Chigumbura had scooped up the ball at backward square leg and fired back at the stumps to leave Manzoor stranded.
That was Zimbabwe's last success of the second day, though, with Younis ending their surge with his 27th test half-century. In among his heroics in this series, the 35-year-old Younis followed great Pakistan names Javed Miandad, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf to that mark.