Abid Ali and Azhar Ali scored centuries on the first day of the second Test against Zimbabwe at Harare Sports Club on Friday, putting Pakistan in a safe position. Abid (118 not out) and Azhar (126) put on 236 for the second wicket before tall fast bowler Blessing Muzarabani took three wickets with the second new ball to get Zimbabwe back into the match. At the end of the game, Pakistan had a score of 268 for four. In the eighth over, Abid and Azhar joined forces with the total on 12 and ground down the Zimbabwe bowlers before Azhar edged Muzarabani to gully in the final half hour of the day.
“It wasn’t a difficult wicket, so after losing an early wicket, we decided to bat long and smart,” Azhar said.
“It worked out, and Abid and I had a long working relationship.”
Despite his team’s dominance, Azhar acknowledged that there was already pressure to win.
“It’s not difficult for me to stay motivated because I only play one style.
“When you play Zimbabwe, though, there’s a touch of friction and even though you do well, it’s not recognised because you’re up against Zimbabwe.
“People think he can’t score against Zimbabwe if he doesn’t do well.”
After Azhar’s dismissal, Pakistan’s captain and star batsman, Babar Azam, was dismissed for the second time in the match, when he drove Muzarabani to point after scoring two runs.
Babar was out for a first-ball duck in the first Test, which Pakistan won by an innings and 116 runs at the same venue.
After scoring five runs, Muzarabani struck again when Fawad Alam, the first Test centurion, pulled a short ball onto his stumps.
Muzarabani went three for 41 on the day. With the second new ball, he took three for 12 in a five-over spell.
“It was a very difficult day,” Muzarabani said. “All we had to do was wait. We’ll be pleased if we can keep them under 360.”
On his way to his 18th Test century, Azhar did not waste any time.
Abid was dropped on 94 when attempting to hit his third Test century, his first since touching three figures in each of his first two Tests, both against Sri Lanka, in December 2019.
When Abid reached for a flighted, wide delivery from left-arm spinner Milton Shumba, he edged a chance that was put down by wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva, he had already invested 17 balls in the nineties.
Abid had to wait another 19 deliveries before cutting Tendai Chisoro, another left-armer spinner, for his 14th boundary.
In his innings, Abid faced 246 balls and hit 17 fours. Azhar scored his runs with 17 fours and a six off 240 deliveries.
Zimbabwe got off to a good start on the day, dismissing Imran Butt in the eighth over.
After scoring two off 20 balls, Butt top-edged a pull to midwicket against left-arm opening bowler Richard Ngarava.
After seeing off some decent bowling from Ngarava and Muzarabani, Abid and Azhar settled in on an easy-paced pitch.
As Roy Kaia was carried off on a stretcher shortly before tea, Zimbabwe had a new injury problem after losing three main batsmen to injuries.
A pull shot from Abid hit him above the left knee when he was fielding at short leg.
Kaia had bruises and his knee was swollen and sore, Zimbabwe Cricket said in a statement after the game.
He was unable to return to the field, but his condition would be evaluated on Saturday morning.
Tabish Khan, a 36-year-old seam bowler, made his Test debut in place of all-rounder Faheem Ashraf, the only change from the first Test. Quick bowler Luke Jongwe, who replaced injured opening batsman Prince Masvaure, earned his first cap for Zimbabwe.