Harare, April 28: Pakistan will start a two-match series against Zimbabwe on Thursday scenting a great opportunity to secure an elusive Test away win.
Mohammad Rizwan starred as Pakistan won a thrilling Twenty20 series at the start of the tour, the in-form opener moving into the top 10 in the batting rankings as a result of his heroics in a 2-1 triumph.
The tourists whitewashed South Africa 2-0 in their last Test series earlier this year too, yet they have gone 11 games without a victory away from home in the longest format.
You have to go back to the first Test against England at Lord's three years ago for their previous Test win on tour, but Babar Azam's side will be expected to put that right at the Harare Sports Club - where both matches will be played.
Pakistan will have to do without star spinner Yasir Shah, who is absent due to a knee injury, at a venue where they have won four out of six Tests.
Zimbabwe have included the uncapped Luke Jongwe, Richard Ngarava, Roy Kaia, Milton Shumba, and Tanaka Chivanga in a youthful squad.
Sikandar Raza misses out against his country of birth as he receives treatment for a bone marrow infection, while Craig Ervine and Wesley Madhevere are ruled out due to injury.
The outcome was a 1-1 draw the last time Pakistan played a Test series in Zimbabwe eight years ago.
Zimbabwe's only Test series success against Pakistan came back in 1998 and it would be a big surprise if they can repeat that feat against a side needing a whitewash to retain fifth place in the rankings.
Rizwan the man
Rizwan starred in the T20 fixtures between the nations, smashing an unbeaten 91 in the decider after cracking a rapid 82 not out in the opening game.
He was also player of the Test series in the triumph over South Africa, the highlight for the wicketkeeper-batsman being a maiden hundred in the longest format in Rawalpindi to help raise his average to 44.35.
Where there's a Will, there's a way
Zimbabwe will be counting on captain Sean Williams to lead by example with the bat once again. He has averaged 96.2 in seven Test innings since the start of 2020, scoring three centuries in his past five knocks.
Williams was named player of the series against Afghanistan this month, but an unbeaten 151 in the second Test was not enough to prevent his side from having to settle for a 1-1 draw.
Key match facts
- Zimbabwe have only managed to record one multi-game bilateral Test series victory over Pakistan (D1 L5); this will be the first such series between the two nations since 2013, however.
- Zimbabwe ended an eight-match winless streak on home soil against Pakistan when they last faced each other in Tests, doing so by a margin of 24 runs.
- Pakistan come into this match having logged back-to-back Test victories - they have not managed to register three wins on the spin since 2016.
- No side has a lower catching success rate than Pakistan in Tests since 2020 (70 per cent - level with West Indies); only Afghanistan (83 per cent ) and Bangladesh (81 per cent) have held on to a better share of their catching opportunities than Zimbabwe in that time (80 per cent).
- Shaheen Afridi requires two wickets to bring up 50 in Test cricket; he returned figures of 4-51 in his most recent innings (v South Africa, February 2021).