Zimbabwe vs Pakistan 1st Test Preview: With strong squad, Zimbabwe won't be a walkover for Pakistan
After an unexpectedly hard-fought T20I series, Zimbabwe and Pakistan will now lock horns in a 2-match test series, with the first match set to be played at the Harare Sports Club from April 29.
LIVE - Zimbabwe vs Pakistan 1st Test
Pakistan have already started training for the first test match, with players who were part of the T20 squad but not part of the tests having flown back to the country. Zimbabwe, too, have announced their squad for the test series and have kept a couple of players on standby as well.
Ashraf, Alam, Ali in form
The last test series that Pakistan played was against South Africa at home which they won by 2-0. The team pocketed the first match by 7 wickets and came back in the second match to win it by 95 runs and win the series.
Faheem Ashraf was Pakistan's top run scorer in the series with 171 runs from three innings at an average of 85.50. Fawad Alam also continued his good form and struck 170 from two matches at an average of 56.67. There were runs from the blade of Mohd Rizwan as well who made 166 from three innings at 83.00. Babar Azam scored 122 runs at an average of 33.50.
Their top wicket taker was Hasan Ali, who was returning to international cricket post a spate of injuries. He picked up 12 wickets including 2 5-wicket hauls and bowled at an average of 19.67. Nauman Ali and Yasir Shah wreaked havoc, picking up 8 wickets each. Ali also picked up a 5-wicket haul.
Both Nauman Ali and Yasir Shah expected to be a part of the Pakistan playing XI in the first test match, given the slow and low surfaces of Zimbabwe.
Onus on Sean Williams, Muzarabani
Zimbabwe last played a test series against Afghanistan in the UAE. After winning the first match of the two match series by 10 wickets, the team lost the next one by 6 wickets as the series finished at 1-1.
Captain Sean Williams was their top scorer in the series with 264 runs at an average of 132. Sikandar Raza also made 150, but is not available due to a serious bone marrow infection. Donald Tiripano and Prince Masvaure were the other Zimbabwe players to score 100 runs or more in the series.
In the bowling department, Blessing Muzarabani picked up 8 wickets from two matches at an average of 18.62, including one 4-wicket haul. Victor Nyauchi took 7 wickets from 47 overs while conceding 194 runs.
Zimbabwe's record against Pakistan in tests
Zimbabwe and Pakistan have played a total of 8 test series till now, with Pakistan winning six and one ending up a draw. Zimbabwe won their only test series against Pakistan in 1998-99. The last time the two teams met in red-ball cricket was in a 2-match series in 2013-14, which was drawn.
Pakistan have put together a new opening combination in Imran Butt and Abid Ali, with Shan Masood having done away with after a poor test series against England. The onus will be on Pakistan's middle order - Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Fawad Alam and Mohammad Rizwan - to do the bulk of the scoring.
Shaheen Shah Afridi will be their leading pacer and will be assisted by Hasan Ali while Yasir Shah and Nauman Ali will take care of the team's spin department.
Zimbabwe bank on youngsters
Five uncapped players - Luke Jongwe, Richard Ngarava, Roy Kaia, Milton Shumba and Tanaka Chivanga - are part of Zimbabwe's 16-man squad for the series of two Tests against Pakistan.
While Craig Ervine continues to miss out due to injury, Brendan Taylor makes a comeback. Sikandar Raza, who is recovering from a bone marrow infection, Ryan Burl, Wesley Madhevere, Richmond Mutumbami, and Brandon Mavuta, all of whom were part of Zimbabwe's test squad against Afghanistan miss out.
Let's have a look at the probable playing XIs:
Pakistan - Imran Butt, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (c), Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Yasir Shah, Nauman Ali, Shaheen Afridi
Zimbabwe - Prince Masvaure, Kevin Kasuza, Tarisai Musakanda, Sean Williams (c), Brendan Taylor (wk), Roy Kaia, Regis Chakabva (wk), Tendai Chisoro/Luke Jongwe, Donald Tiripano, Blessing Muzarabani, Victor Nyauchi
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