Zim answer all questions

Pakistan 249 and 168-4 (Younis 76*, Misbah 52) lead Zimbabwe 327 (Waller 70, Chigumbura 69, Raza 60, Ajmal 7-95) by 90 runs.
KEVIN MAPASURE

Pakistan had to dig deep into its reservoir of experience to fight back a spirited performance by hosts Zimbabwe which has defied all odds and won some world cricket admirers in the first of two Tests in which it was not expected to offer much resistance; let alone last the full distance of five days.

Going into day four, Pakistan would be the happier of the two sides not so much because it holds any advantage, but that it fought back hard after the first two days were dominated by Zimbabwe with both bat and ball.

At stumps on day three yesterday, Pakistan was on 168-4 in its second innings, a lead of 90 runs having battled from a deficit of 78 runs from the first innings.

The experience of Younis Khan, who was playing his 83rd Test match, counted when he partnered with Misbah Ul haq to rebuild their innings after it had suffered early dismissals to leave the visitors tottering on 23-3 after just 10 overs.

The entire Zimbabwe team has 63 Test caps among the players, but it fought, pushed and pressed from day one having lost key batsmen Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams on the eve of the match.

By the end of day yesterday, the match hung in the balance and going into day four today, Pakistan will feel a second innings lead of above 200 could be enough to win the match.

Zimbabwe coach Andy Waller conceded that chasing may pose a challenge for his team, but they will look to continue the fighting spirit that has seen them push their more accomplished opponents to the wire and hopefully claim a win that would shake the cricket world.

Whatever happens, the pressure is on Pakistan now to restore normal order.

Zimbabwe is unranked in Test cricket, but after this series they will be placed eighth in the nine-nation elite league with the tourists occupying fourth place ahead of Australia, West Indies and New Zealand.

Bangladesh will be the lowest ranking nation.

Whatever happens in this series, Zimbabwe has already defied the odds and would hope that nagging doubts about its international pedigree subside for a while.

But the hosts will not settle for a near miss. The seam attack of Tendai Chatara, who took out Mohammad Hafeez (16) yesterday, Tinashe Panyangara who snared both opener Khurram Manzoor (5) and Azhar Ali (0) to reduce Pakistan to 21-2 in the seventh over and Shingi Masakadza who broke the Younis Khan-Misbah-ul-Haq 116-run fourth wicket partnership, will emerge hungrier to set a good base for the batsmen this morning.

Masakadza combined with Vusi Sibanda to remove half centurion Misbah-ul-Haq (52) 11 overs before stumps.

Khan will resume this morning on 76 not out while Asad Shafiq resumes on 15.

Earlier in the day, lower middle order batsman Elton Chigumbura scored his third Test half century to help Zimbabwe increase its lead from 32 to 78 having added to the overnight score of 281-7 from day two.

Chigumbura fell to Saeed Ajamal, who finished with seven wickets, caught by Azhar Ali at silly point after hitting eight fours in his 129-ball 69.

Prosper Utseya (16), Richmond Mutumbami (13), Panyangara (4) and Masakadza (14) contributed 47 useful runs between them to give Zimbabwe some lead to work with.

Saeed Ajmal claimed all three wickets for Pakistan yesterday.

The work is cut out for Zimbabwe bowlers to press on and restrict Pakistan to a score the batsmen can have confidence of reaching.