Prince Masvaure’s career-best 65 ushered Zimbabwe through most of the morning session
Lunch Zimbabwe 145/2 (Musakanda 23*, Williams 8*) trail Afghanistan 545 for 4 (Shahidi 200*, Jamal 55*) by 400 runs
Prince Masvaure’s career-best 65 ushered Zimbabwe through most of the morning session but his dismissal in the third over before lunch gave Afghanistan a slender advantage as the Test approached the halfway stage. Zimbabwe are still 200 runs away from avoiding the follow-on and only need a draw to win the series. Although the pitch remains good for batting, there are signs of turn and Afghanistan’s spinners will hope for the cracks open up and the surface to deteriorate which would help them push for victory.
Rashid Khan made the first incision into the Zimbabwean line-up when Kevin Kasuza chased a wide delivery and got a thin edge to Afsar Zazai. Kasuza had looked relatively comfortable to that point, particularly against Afghanistan’s lone seamer, Sayed Shirzad, who he took for four boundaries in two overs as Shirzad strayed onto the leg side, bowling around the wicket. Shirzad’s four overs on the second morning cost 22 runs and it was not long before Asghar Afghan turned to spin from both ends.
Offspinner Javed Ahmadi found sharp turn early on but Masvaure adjusted well when he started using his feet against him. Rashid was introduced in the 29th over, the 12th of the day, and Kasuza immediately picked the googly and sent it through mid-on for four. That shot, and the work he did in getting to 41, is why Kasuza will be disappointed with his shot selection against a ball he could have left – when he chased a wide one to edge it to the wicketkeeper. His dismissal also meant Zimbabwe are without a century opening stand in almost ten years, since August 2011.
Tarisai Musakanda was greeted with a googly from Rashid first up and then beaten by a legbreak but Masvaure kept him off strike as far as possible initially to allow him to have a sighter for what he would have to contend with. But Masvaure was happy to take a run when on 49 he drove the ball down the ground and set off for a run. A direct hit at the bowler’s end was referred for a run-out but Masvaure had completed the single and reached his half-century.
Things did not get much easier from there and Rashid began to pose problems for him. He had an appeal for caught behind as Masvaure missed the sweep but Ahmed Shah Pakteen was not convinced. In his next over, Rashid had another appeal for the same dismissal when he beat Masvaure but there was evidence of daylight between bat and ball. In between, Masvaure got one away, a flick behind square but even as his innings grew, he never looked entirely at ease.
He played the shot of the morning – an on-drive off Amir Hamza – but in Hamza’s next over, went forward to turn the ball leg-side, left a gap between bat and pad and was bowled. Musakanda and captain Sean Williams took Zimbabwe to lunch, who are still 400 runs behind.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent