After winning the first Test convincingly by 221 runs, Pakistan are overwhelming favourites to win the second and final Test against a Zimbabwe team that is fighting hard to focus on cricket amid a battle over payment issues with their board. But the hosts will hope to put up a much improved performance over a five-day period beginning Tuesday in hope of squaring the two-match series.
Zimbabwe suffered a massive defeat to go down 0-1 in the series as Saeed Ajmal toppled their batting with 11 wickets in the match. Pakistan bowlers picked up nine wickets on the final day of the first Test, with spinners Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman taking four each.
There was a question mark hanging over the second Test due to the payment row, but Hamilton Masakadza, who will hand over captaincy to Brendan Taylor returning from a paternal leave, confirmed that Zimbabwe players will definitely play the second Test. Earlier, the players had threatened to boycott the final ODI of the tour, but Zimbabwe Cricket's negotiations with the players ended the impasse.
For Pakistan, veteran batsman Younis Khan's innings was the game-changing contribution in the first Test as the visitors made 419 in their second innings to set a huge target for Zimbabwe. Younis made 200 not out off 404 balls, batting for nearly 10 hours, and was also given the Man-of-the-Match award. The only positive for Zimbabwe was the partnership between Sikandar Raza and Malcolm Waller in the first innings. Elton Chigumbura also had a good show with the bat as he scored 69 runs to take Zimbabwe to 327 in the first innings.
Masakadza, though, was worried about the pitch at Harare that replaced Bulawayo as the venue for the second Test to reportedly avoid travel expenses - a cost-saving measure by the country's board. The official reason given, though, was that Queens Club was "not in a condition to host the Test". Masakadza believes less time to prepare the pitch may render it slightly difficult to negotiate.
"It's going to get a lot worse, a lot quicker. It's going to be tough for the groundsman with such a short turnaround and the spinners will definitely come into play much more in the second innings," said the Zimbabwe captain.
Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq concurred with Masakadza. "The pitch is a really big concern for us. It's going to be tricky but we need to be prepared - especially mentally prepared - and we need to be professional."
There have only been three days between the two Tests, and the ground staff had a tough job getting a decent pitch prepared in that time.
Zimbabwe: 1 Tino Mawoyo, 2 Vusi Sibanda, 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Brendan Taylor (capt), 5 Malcolm Waller, 6 Elton Chigumbura, 7 Richmond Mutumbami (wk), 8 Prosper Utseya, 9 Shingirai Masakadza, 10 Tinashe Panyangara, 11 Tendai Chatara
Pakistan: 1 Khurram Manzoor, 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Younus Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (C), 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Adnan Akmal (wk), 8 Abdur Rehman, 9 Saeed Ajmal, 10 Junaid Khan, 11 Rahat Ali