Tour Report – Inside Zimbabwe vs Pakistan 1997-98 Test Series
Tour Report – Inside Zimbabwe vs Pakistan 1997-98 Test Series. It was the cricket series between giants of the game and the youngest full member of the I.C.C. Pakistan cricket team, on the second leg of its African Safari had landed in Zimbabwe last month to Play two test matches and the same number of one-dayers. Zimbabwe had nothing to lose but Pakistan’s prestige and image were at stake in this series.
The home team had some really good performances to its credit both in Test and one-day cricket in the last eight years. It had defeated Pakistan at Harare by an inning margin during the last tour in 1994-95. The First Test match was played at Queen’s Sports Club Ground (Q.S.C.G) Bulawayo from March 14 to 18, 1998. As Pakistan’s cricket lovers little about the Zimbabwean Test centers so let’s talk a bit about them.
This historical Club was established in the late nineteenth century. It is in the heart of this small tidy city which is a 45 minutes air journey from the capital Harare. The ground is five minutes walk from the main city center and commercial areas. It resembles Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore, and Buranwala ground, Faisalabad. Surrounded by tall green trees, it is very picturesque and lovely. The Club also offers facilities for playing Golf, Rugby, Soccer, lawn tennis, and hockey.
The first Test match was played on this ground on October 20, 1994, between Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka, and five Test matches, have been played here after the first Test against Pakistan in 1998. Prior to this Test match was staged at Bulawayo Athletic club ground between New Zealand and Zimbabwe on November 1, 1992. The Pavilion building of Q.S.C.G is on the Western side of the ground from the city end comprising of a dining hall changing rooms, and a bar.
Walls of the corridors have been decorated with photographs of players and teams participating in different sports during the last century. The ground does not have permanent stands but make-shift arrangements have been made for the spectators.
On the left side of the Airport Road end, there is a green area and cricket lovers sit under the shadow of trees to enjoy the game. A small crowd turned up to see the match and the majority of them were whites. We were told that the Q.S.C.G. is filled to capacity for one-dayers. There is a manual scoreboard at a deep backward point position towards the city end.
Bulawayo’s Test ground gives a look at a country or a club ground in England. The wicket is a good batting one that is favorable to the seamers and particularly to the spinners on the last three days. This is the venue where Adam Huckle got eleven wickets for 255 runs against New Zealand in 1997.
Two commentary boxes have been raised at the third-man position at the city end and the press center is yards away behind the long leg position. The commentators sitting at the ground level position are at the losing end as they can neither see the movement of the ball nor can look at the scoreboard on their right side. Organizers informed that a lot of new construction has been planned to improve the facilities of this center.
Harare (old name Salisbury) with a population of 1.5 million is one of the emerging cities in Africa. Harare Sports Club ground main Test center in the country was established in 1936 and is located in the center of Harare. This venue looks like any Gymkhana ground in the sub-continent. President Robert Mugabe’s residence is at the end of the road entering this cricket ground.
The First Test match was played here on October 20, 1992, between Zimbabwe and India, and eleven Tests, have so far been staged here. Facilities are better here for the media and commentators. Half the ground on the right side of the main pavilion and between the two sight screens is surrounded by stands.
On the left side scores of tents of different colors are pegged sheltering the spectators from the sun. The scoreboard in this ground is once again manual and very sluggish causing problems for the spectators and cricket experts. Five wickets have been laid which are conducive to fast medium and swing bowlers but there is little assistance for spinners on these turfs.
Zimbabwe vs Pakistan 1997-98 Test Series Review
Looking back at the series, Pakistan can only feel lucky to win it narrowly. Zimbabwe almost scampered home as victors at Bulawayo. It was due to a gritty fight-back by Moin Khan and newcomer Yousuf Youhana (Muhammad Yousaf) that the match was saved. Waqar Younis bowled superbly on this track and a foot injury to him on the fourth day in fact allowed Murray Goodwin and Andy Flower to pick up a huge total to be chased in the fourth innings.
At the time of leaving the field, Waqar had got two wickets in the second innings at a very economical rate followed by his five in the first. Yousaf Youhana, a tenacious fighter and future hope for Pakistan scored 60 and 64 for Pakistan in this Test. He needs to learn more as far as batting technique is concerned, particularly against sharp-moving deliveries on fast wickets. It will be unjust if Murray Goodwin’s innings are not mentioned here. He has played his first-class cricket for Western Australia and this was his first entry into Test cricket.
He has got a very nice easy stance and is equipped with a copybook technique. He plays his strokes all around the wicket with graceful timing and placement. His century was followed with scores of 53 and 81 at Harare, taking his total in the two Test matches to 300.
The Harare Test was won by Pakistan by three wickets. This Test will be remembered because of Muhammad Wasim’s chancy innings of 192. Pakistan had lost 8 wickets for 187 when he was joined by leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed. Both scored 147 runs for the ninth wicket enabling Pakistan to score 354 runs in the first innings and to attain a lead of 77 runs.
Zimbabwean fielding was very sloppy and three easy catches of Muhammad Wasim were floored besides at least two half chances. Pakistan had to score 192 runs to win the Test but they faltered by losing 5 wickets at a total of 138, Youhana once again came and did the rescue work.
Waqar bowled beautifully to get 6 wickets for 107 runs in the match and took his tally in the series to 13 wickets to win the Man of the Series award. Like Pakistan, Zimbabwe had its problems. Alistair Campbell’s captaincy was not up to the mark beside his batting performance. A joke was going on in the Harare ground that Campbell had forgotten whether he had included Adam Huckle in the side or not. Huckle was brought in very late in Pakistan’s first innings when the crowd started shouting for introducing him.
Mbangwa, who bowled very well in the series and got 6 wickets for 121 runs, was also called to bowl for only two over’s in Pakistan’s second innings. Heath Streak, though not hundred percent fit, got 7 wickets for 239 runs. Dirk Viljeon’s earning of a king pair at Bulawayo saw Gavin Rennie in the side as an opener in the second Test who also failed miserably.
Paul Strang and Adam Huckle are two right-arm leg spinners on the Zimbabwe side and each of them won a nod from the selectors for one Test match. I was more impressed with Paul Strang who has got better control over his line, flight, and length. He got four wickets for 122 runs in the first Test.
Guy Whittal is another emerging all-rounder on the horizon of world cricket that got 9 wickets for 237 runs in the Test. He swings the ball both ways and while batting, he is a good striker of the ball. Grant Flower has a stamp of class on his batting and cricket lovers will not forget for long his chanceless unbeaten innings of 156 in the first innings of the Bulawayo Test.
Pakistan’s major problem during the series was injuries to ace batsman Aamir Sohail, leg spinner Mushtaq Ahmed, and fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar. Their spirits were further dampened by the loss of touch by Inzamam-ul-Haq, Ijaz Ahmad, and Azhar Mahmood in Zimbabwe. They won two one-day internationals very smoothly but the Test series was very closely contested. The one-day internationals saw packed houses in Harare.
People had come from neighboring countries like Zambia and South Africa to see the matches and ultimately they got their money’s worth. Cricket lovers in Zimbabwe wait anxiously for such visits when cricket becomes the talk of the towns.