There has been no shortage of remarkable test matches this year, but unless you are an England fan, none have been terribly heart-warming. This match corrected that. Zimbabwe wins were few an far between in the best of times, and we are a long way from those. After the first test they looked to lack that winning habit to take advantage of any lead, with the eventual margin indicating that Pakistan could win even if they failed to bring their second-best. The obvious danger for Pakistan was that their misfiring top-order was leaving a lot of work for the experienced middle; and that the return of Zimbabwean captain Brendan Taylor would give them the touch of class and backbone they needed to stay in the match just that little bit longer.
Masakadza and Taylor contributed 197 runs, almost half Zimbabwe's total; Younis and Misbah had 218 in response, almost, but not quite enough, as the latter was left stranded by the inept batting of his team-mates (Khurram Mazoor aside), and the skills of Zimbabwe's bowling attack. Vitori in the first innings and Chatara in the second (both 5/61) provided the impetus and skill, swinging the ball when it was new - and helped in no small part by the slow batting of Pakistan who afforded them a second new ball with far fewer runs on the board than they needed. It was tense, and Zimbabwe needed almost every one of the runs that they managed to grind out on the first day, but as the celebrations showed, they were both deserving and enthusiastic winners.
Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, the result is ultimately meaningless, wih no further tours planned over the summer, and no funds to allow them to do so. They lie, again, in limbo until the next tour, with little quality preparation for the WT20, which will be their next moment in the spotlight. For Pakistan, they now must host South Africa in the UAE. Perhaps the last team they want to see given their batting problems, though their form in the UAE is vastly superior to elsewhere.
Not as remarkable a win as the scorecard might imply. Namibia sent a much weakened squad for both the I-Cup and WCL games and got the thrashing they deserved in both. This match was over in only two days. A spin induced collapse to Ahmed Raza (7/37) meant Namibia was all out 90 half-way through day one. Shaiman Anwar's rich form continued with 81, although Viljoen (4/32) kept the result slightly better than embarrassing, and a breezy 49 from van der Westhuizen at least got Namibia over 150 and forced U.A.E. to bat again in the second innings. They've done the I-Cup no favours with its future in some doubt and this kind of pointless mismatch between an A-side would indicate that a cup format might be better than an extended league ending with a lot of dead games.
A series that snuck up, fixtures being something that don't need to be announced until a few weeks prior to the event in most of the cricket world. Bangladesh have no recent form to talk about, but whether that means they'll struggle or be well prepared for a home contest against a team they ought to be challenging is not clear. New Zealand played well throughout the last year, albeit in largely favourable conditions. Their bowling attack is coming along well, and there remains potential in the batting, though most haven't flourished as it might have, and is it will as it matures. Bangladesh's most recent hoem tests have been played on very flat and slow decks that have favoured their spinners and kept their propensity for collapse from beng an issue. If New Zealand stay patient they should score big and win easily. If not, this might be an interesting series.
Pakistan ought to be a much better side back in the U.A.E. than they showed on either of their last two trips to Africa. They'd want to be though, with a dispiriting loss to the world number one at the hands of a debutant, and a loss to Zimbabwe making for miserable reading. Their batting has struggled for a while now, though it was hidden at "home" against England because of the dominant performance of Saeed Ajmal. They will need every one of his tricks again to roll over the South Africans, whose only weakness would probably be a lack of recent cricket, and the strong possibility of their cricket board going bankrupt. South Africa have no comparable spinner to Ajmal, but their batting ought to blunt him sufficiently to allow Steyn and company to do the job. Conversely, the last set of matches between these two sides in the U.A.E. were high-scoring draws. Hopefully they won't decide to roll out the concrete; but keep in mind that the pitch in these matches may matter even more than normal.
Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.
Idle Summers 1st October, 2013 01:11:36 [#]