Harare: Pakistan regained control of the second Test against Zimbabwe in the final session of the first day on Tuesday, breaking a 110-run stand between Hamilton Masakadza and captain Brendan Taylor and then reducing the host to 237 for 8 by stumps.
Pakistan's late charge saw Zimbabwe slip rapidly from a position of strength at 141 for 2 just before Masakadza's dismissal, giving the tourists early control of the deciding match and moving them toward a series victory. Pakistan won the first Test by 221 runs on Saturday.
Seamer Junaid Khan led the attack on Tuesday afternoon with 3 for 55 in the second Test to be played on Harare Sports Club's well-used pitch in four days. Rahat Ali (2 for 48) and spinner Abdur Rehman (2 for 37) had two wickets each as the Zimbabweans fell away after the promising stand between their two most experienced batsmen.
Offspinner Saeed Ajmal, Zimbabwe's main tormentor in the first Test, removed Masakadza soon after lunch for 75 off an edge to Mohammad Hafeez at slip and the resistance crumbled. Ajmal's fellow spinner Rehman picked up Taylor lbw for 51 and Pakistan took 5 for 65 at the end of the day to finish in control.
Zimbabwe must win to avoid dropping a fifth series in seven since returning to Test cricket in 2011 and this tour has dragged up some of the country's old problems. Players have been involved in a dispute with their board over unpaid pages and have threatened to go on strike, while the second Test was moved from Bulawayo to Harare at late notice because of Zimbabwe Cricket's need to save costs.
Amid fears that the worn surface would deteriorate rapidly and wanting to avoid batting last on it, returning captain Taylor chose to bat first. But Pakistan was immediately on top, removing Tino Mawoyo for a duck, caught behind off the second ball of the match, although the ball appeared to flick his thigh and not his bat.
Vusi Sibanda, the other opener, fell for 14 for 31 for 2 before Masakadza and Taylor rebuilt. Masakadza hit nine fours and a six and Taylor six fours after missing the first Test due to the birth of his child.
They were both removed by Pakistan's in-form spinners and Khan and Ali made inroads into Zimbabwe's middle and lower order late in the day, leaving the home team short of 250 with just two wickets in hand.