Guinea faced an anxious wait but will still qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 despite suffering a shock 2-1 defeat to Zimbabwe at Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo.

Kaba Diawara's side started their final Group B match with one foot seemingly in the knockout stage, but Zimbabwe pulled off an upset to end their 14-match winless run in Yaounde on Tuesday.

Guinea then had to wait for confirmation that Sengal and Malawi had drawn 0-0 in the other game before being sure of their place in the next stage.

As a result, Senegal finished top of the group, meaning they will play one of the best third-placed teams, while Malawi finish third behind Guinea by virtue of an earlier defeat to them.

Captain Knowledge Musona rose unmarked to open the scoring for Zimbabwe - with no chance of qualifying after losing their two other games - after 26 minutes, heading home Never Tigere's cross from six yards out.

Kudakwashe Mahachi doubled Zimbabwe's lead two minutes before half-time, with goalkeeper Aly Keita badly at fault as he failed to keep out the midfielder's shot from outside the penalty area.

Guinea looked a totally different side after the break and Naby Keita halved the deficit four minutes into the second half, bursting forward and unleashing a rasping left-foot strike from outside the box that flew into the far corner of the net.

Zimbabwe came under increasing pressure but held on for their first AFCON win since 2006, while Syli Nationale will need to improve markedly to make an impact in the knockout stages.

Guinea face an anxious wait to discover if they will qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 after suffering a shock 2-1 defeat to Zimbabwe at Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo.

Kaba Diawara's side started their final Group B match with one foot seemingly in the knockout stage, but Zimbabwe pulled off an upset to end their 14-match winless run in Yaounde on Tuesday.

Captain Knowledge Musona rose unmarked to open the scoring for Zimbabwe - with no chance of qualifying after losing their two other games - after 26 minutes, heading home Never Tigere's cross from six yards out.

Kudakwashe Mahachi doubled Zimbabwe's lead two minutes before half-time, with goalkeeper Aly Keita badly at fault as he failed to keep out the midfielder's shot from outside the penalty area.

Guinea looked a totally different side after the break and Naby Keita halved the deficit four minutes into the second half, bursting forward and unleashing a rasping left-foot strike from outside the box that flew into the far corner of the net.

Zimbabwe came under increasing pressure but held on for their first AFCON win since 2006, while Syli Nationale.will have to wait to learn if they will qualify as one of the best third-placed finishers after Senegal and Malawi drew 0-0 to finish top and second respectively.

Three of the pre-tournament Africa Cup of Nations favourites conclude their group stage fixtures on Tuesday, though one of them is in a tricky situation.

Senegal are on track to qualify from Group B, while Morocco have so far handled the potentially difficult Group C rather well – the same cannot be said for Ghana.

Luckily for the Black Stars, they have arguably – on paper at least – their easiest game of the group stage to look forward to as they bid to avoid falling at the first hurdle for only the second time this century.

Malawi v Senegal (16:00 GMT)

Just by beating Zimbabwe 2-1 thanks to a brace from the excellent Gabadinho Mhango, Malawi have arguably already compounded expectations at this year's tournament.

That was only their second ever win at the AFCON and it ensured they go into Tuesday with a real chance of qualification, either automatically or as one of the four best third-placed teams.

But Senegal still have a lot to play for themselves, with Aliou Cisse's men tied on four points with Guinea.

While that could be enough to take them through anyway, failing to top this group will not be a good look for the team many considered favourites to lift the trophy.

One to watch: Gabadinho Mhango (Malawi)

While Senegal undoubtedly possess the stronger squad, Orlando Pirates striker Mhango really caught the eye last time out with a couple of well-taken goals. One more will make him Malawi's all-time top scorer in the AFCON.

 

Zimbabwe v Guinea (16:00 GMT)

A wonderful opportunity awaits Guinea here, with the Syli Nationale knowing they will win the group as long as they better Senegal's result.

Their 0-0 draw with the Teranga Lions was a decent outcome and means they are one of just three teams still to concede a goal – though goalkeeper Aly Keita's tournament-best record of 2.4 goals prevented may have something to do with that.

They face a Zimbabwe side with only pride to play for having lost each of their first two games, though the omens are not great for Guinea: the Warriors' only previous AFCON wins have been in their final group matches (in 2004 and 2006).

 

One to watch: Mohamed Bayo (Guinea)

Despite their chances being worth 2.98 in terms of expected goals (xG), Guinea have only netted once. That 1.98 non-penalty xG underperformance is the second-worst at the tournament. Bayo arrived in Cameroon in good form – they will hope he can inspire an improvement where it matters most.

 

Gabon v Morocco (19:00 GMT)

As one of only three teams to win both of their first two games this year, Morocco are already assured of a place in the next round – they just need to seal top spot now.

The Atlas Lions are already on their longest unbeaten run at the AFCON (six matches) since going 11 without defeat in the 1970s, and they also boast the best xG (5.3) and xGA (0.5) records of the teams to play twice, evidence of how effective they have been at both ends of the pitch.

But Gabon, who confirmed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mario Lemina have returned to their clubs for medical reasons, are aiming to go unbeaten in a second success group stage campaign for the first time, with a point likely good enough to send them through.

One to watch: Youssef En-Nesyri (Morocco)

It has been a frustrating season so far for Sevilla striker En-Nesyri, who has missed prolonged periods through injury and then saw his penalty saved against Comoros. His 25-minute cameo then was his first appearance in the tournament. With qualification already assured, they might opt to build up his fitness for the knockouts with a start against Gabon.

 

Ghana v Comoros (19:00 GMT)

Ghana were held to a 1-1 draw by Gabon last time out, a match that was marred by ugly scenes at full-time after a late equaliser denied them victory. It culminated in a red card for Benjamin Tetteh after he punched an opponent in the face.

Having also lost to Morocco on matchday one, Ghana now need a win to have any hope of progressing – even then, it may not be enough.

If Ghana do not win, it will be the first time they have ever failed to win a single group game in 22 appearances at the tournament.

It would also be their first failure to get out of the group since 2006. Much is at stake.

One to watch: Andre Ayew (Ghana)

While Ghana have some very talented young players in their squad, their qualification hopes are looking a little desperate – they need their experienced stars to take the lead here. Andre Ayew and his brother Jordan are obviously the focus here, given that nine (70 per cent) of Ghana's previous 13 AFCON goals have been scored by the siblings (Andre is on five, Jordan on four).

 

Gabadinho Mhango scored twice as Malawi came from behind to beat Zimbabwe 2-1 on Friday, providing a real boost to the Flames' hopes of getting out of their group for the first time in Africa Cup of Nations history.

Ishmael Wadi had seemingly ensured Zimbabwe were going into the break ahead, with his towering header looping over Ernest Kakhobwe in the Malawi net with 38 minutes played.

But Meck Mwase's men levelled soon after, Mhango turning in Francisco Madinga's sumptuous left-wing cross.

Malawi then completed the turnaround just before the hour mark.

Mhango played the ball into Madinga from the flank and continued his run, which subsequently allowed him to capitalise on Teenage Hadebe's hesitant defending after a flick-on, and he guided a delicate finish over the onrushing Petros Mhari.

The result leaves Malawi with three points from two games, one behind top two Guinea and Senegal, and gives them a fine chance of at least securing one of the qualification spots awarded to the four best third-placed teams – Zimbabwe are pointless and staring at likely elimination.

 

The Africa Cup of Nations group stage continues at pace on Friday, with four matches scheduled to take place.

Senegal, runners-up in 2019, face Guinea in Group B, with both teams having won their opening fixtures. Malawi and Zimbabwe take each other on in the other match in that group.

Meanwhile, Gabon are hoping to have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back for their clash with Ghana in Group C, while Morocco, winners against the Black Stars on matchday one, take on Comoros.

Senegal v Guinea (13:00 GMT)

Senegal and Guinea are meeting for the third time at the Africa Cup of Nations, with the former winning their first two encounters: 2-1 in the 1994 group stages and 3-2 in the 2006 quarter-finals.

In both matches, Guinea opened the scoring before eventually finishing as the losing side, and it is Senegal – led, of course, by Sadio Mane – who will be favourites on Friday, the Liverpool forward's 97th-minute penalty sealing an opening win against Zimbabwe.

Mane's fellow Red Naby Keita is Guinea's star man. He attempted more passes in the opposition half (26) than any of his team-mates in the 1-0 defeat of Malawi last time out and it was his precise ball that led to the only goal of the game.

Keita might have his work cut out against a Senegal midfield that will likely include Paris Saint-Germain's all-action Idrissa Gueye, the towering presence of Crystal Palace's Cheikhou Kouyate and Bayern Munich's versatile full-back Bouna Sarr, who had five attempts and played two key passes in the win over Zimbabwe.

One to watch: Sadio Mane

After his last-gasp winner on Monday, Mane has been directly involved in five of Senegal's past six AFCON goals, scoring four and providing one assist. Since his debut in the competition in January 2015, the former Southampton star has been directly involved in more goals than any other Senegal player.

 

Malawi v Zimbabwe (16:00)

After narrow defeats in their opening matches, Group B's other teams will be looking to bounce back knowing they could draw level with one of the pool's big sides with three points.

That being said, neither team exactly have a strong history in the competition. This will be the first encounter between the nations at an AFCON finals, with Malawi winning just one of their seven matches at the tournament (D1 L5).

Zimbabwe, meanwhile, are winless in their past seven AFCON matches (D2 L5), last claiming a victory in the competition in 2006, against Ghana (2-1).

It could be a case of an easily stoppable force meeting a highly movable object, however, with Malawi having failed to score in four of their past seven AFCON games, while Zimbabwe have never kept a clean sheet in 13 such matches, conceding 28 goals. No team has ever played more games in the competition without once keeping the ball out of their own net.

One to watch: Tino Kadewere (Zimbabwe)

Lyon forward Kadewere had to settle for a place on the bench in the first game, though he came on for the second half and had two attempts, which was bettered by only Knowledge Musona for Zimbabwe. In a squad shy of top-level European experience, Kadewere is undoubtedly the standout talent.

 

Morocco v Comoros (16:00)

After Senegal, Morocco are the second-best-ranked team at AFCON, currently placed 28th in the FIFA's world standings.

The Atlas Lions defeated Ghana in their opening Group C match and head into Friday's meeting with minnows Comoros as huge favourites, with Morocco looking to win their opening two matches at an AFCON in consecutive editions of the tournament, having only won both such games in one of their previous 16 appearances in the competition.

Comoros, who went down 1-0 to Gabon on Monday, will hope to avoid becoming the sixth AFCON debutants this century to lose their opening two matches, after Benin (2004), Botswana (2012), Burundi (2019), Niger (2012) and Zimbabwe (2004).

One to watch: Sofiane Boufal

Former Southampton midfielder Boufal scored an 83rd-minute winner against Ghana. No Moroccan player has netted in successive AFCON matches since Houssine Kharja in 2012.

 

Gabon v Ghana (19:00)

Friday's headline clash sees Gabon take on Ghana, and Aubameyang could well be back after he trained with his side following a negative coronavirus result.

Aubameyang, who has not played for Arsenal since early December and was recently stripped of the club captaincy due to a disciplinary breach, tested positive for COVID-19 upon his arrival for the AFCON, along with Mario Lemina.

Gabon will, however, be without coach Patrice Neveu, who is isolating. They are looking to win successive AFCON games for the first time since a run of three victories in 2012.

Four-time champions Ghana, meanwhile, have won just one of their past five group games (D2 L2), losing more in this run than in their previous 12 such matches combined (W9 D2 L1).

One to watch: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

There is no doubting Aubameyang's quality, even if the 32-year-old has been ostracised at Arsenal recently. Having been out of action for so long, it may take the former Borussia Dortmund star time to get up to speed, though he has the ability to be the difference-maker. 

Senegal got their Africa Cup of Nations campaign started with a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe, as Sadio Mane scored the decisive goal with a matter of seconds remaining.

Aliou Cisse's side were without as many as six "indisputable starting players" due to a COVID-19 outbreak, which impacted the likes of Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly.

But even allowing for their absences, the Teranga Lions failed to meet expectations for much of the match.

Keita Balde summed up their performance early on, wasting one of few clear opportunities when shooting over from close range, and Mane spurned another good chance.

The game was largely played at a pedestrian pace in the heat of Bafoussam, but Boulaye Dia sprung into action 14 minutes from time and looked certain to square to Mane for a tap-in, only for Petros Mhari to brilliantly hold on to the squared pass.

Zimbabwe looked set to hang on, but in the final 10 seconds of stoppage time, Kelvin Madzongwe charged down a shot and accidentally handled the ball, allowing Mane to smash home the resulting penalty.

The Africa Cup of Nations is in full swing following its big kick-off on Sunday, and Monday sees the action taken up a notch.

There will be twice as many games as Group B and Group C get under way, providing first opportunities to see two of the pre-tournament favourites: Morocco and Senegal.

But the shroud of COVID-19 lingers over practically every AFCON match at the moment, and it will be especially difficult to ignore its impact on games on Monday, with the likes of Senegal, Guinea, Malawi and Gabon all missing key players.

Senegal v Zimbabwe (13:00 GMT)

Senegal's second so-called 'golden generation' is running out of time.

They arrived in Cameroon with a stacked squad, but many of their key players are approaching 30 or are already there.

To make matters worse, coach Aliou Cisse is without a host of big players against Zimbabwe, a game he will be keen to just get out of the way.

"I was looking at the composition of our team," Cisse said. "Compared to our last match against Congo, I can already tell you we have six indisputable starting players who are not on the squad list: Edouard Mendy, Krepin Diatta, Ismaila Sarr, Nampalys Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly and Saliou Ciss.

"Having six absent starting players, it's true that it's worrying."

One to watch: Sadio Mane (Senegal)

Senegal have one of the best squads – if not the very best – in the tournament, but they are going to rely on Mane to a certain degree, particularly given their COVID-19 absences. Thankfully he is exceptional both when it comes to sniffing out chances and creating them, with his 0.67 non-penalty expected goal involvements every 90 minutes being the fourth-best in the Premier League (min. 900 minutes played) this term.

 

Guinea v Malawi (16:00 GMT)

Both Guinea and Malawi have been among the sides struck by coronavirus ahead of this tournament, but the former should still fancy their chances on Monday against a team considered Group B's rank outsiders.

Anything but three points will be a major disappointment for Guinea on matchday one, and key player Naby Keita is not among those to be afflicted with COVID-19.

As such, coach Kaba Diawara is feeling confident.

"We have the ambition to go as far as possible in this competition, which is why I accepted this mission," Diawara told Africa Top Sports ahead of the tournament.

"It's clear that it is the results that will speak. We try to put things in place, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

One to watch: Mohamed Bayo (Guinea)

While Naby Keita may be the team's most-recognisable star, expectations on Bayo are significant given he heads into the tournament with nine Ligue 1 goals to his name with Clermont this season, 45 per cent of their total output, and only one was a penalty. Only Jonathan David (12) and Wissam Ben Yedder and Ludovic Ajorque (both 10) have scored more in the French top flight so far.

 

Morocco v Ghana (16:00 GMT)

After Senegal (60.9 per cent), Morocco are the likeliest to finish top of a group at the AFCON (52.6 per cent), according to Stats Perform analysis. This speaks to the quality in the side assembled by Vahid Halilhodzic.

Even without Chelsea star Hakim Ziyech, who has been exiled, Morocco boast some fine players and will be expected to go deep into the competition – not that coach Halilhodzic is taking anything for granted.

"We have to prepare well to face the three teams in the group: Ghana, Gabon, and the Comoros," the Bosnian told reporters.

"Although Morocco are favourites to reach the second round, we have to prepare well and play with a lot of ambition and determination to go as far as possible."

One to watch: Yassine Bounou (Morocco)

This is likely to be Morocco's biggest challenge in the group stage, so they will want to be solid at the back. Bounou should help them in that respect – the Sevilla goalkeeper's 25 clean sheets in all competitions in 2021 was a total bettered only by Ederson (26) and Edouard Mendy (27) across the top five leagues in Europe.

 

Comoros v Gabon (19:00 GMT)

Comoros' Group C opener will be a momentous game as they play in a major international tournament for the first time.

Making a splash will be tough, but coach Amir Abdou is adamant they are more than worthy of their place in Cameroon.

 

He told Africa Foot United: "We haven't qualified by chance. We therefore don't think that we will let the opportunity to go as far as possible slip away.

"We will fight with our weapons with our various opponents, as tough as they are."

 

One to watch: Denis Bouanga (Gabon)

Gabon are likely to be without two of their most experienced players in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mario Lemina due to coronavirus, meaning others will need to step up. Bouanga will probably be among those expected to take on greater responsibility. The gifted Saint-Etienne left-winger is a good dribbler and takes a lot of shots, his 3.4 attempts per 90 minutes being the fifth-most in Ligue 1 this season (min. 900 minutes played).

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has taken the decision to abandon the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2021, which had been taking place in Zimbabwe due to uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus.

Global concerns regarding the emergence of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 has seen travel restrictions imposed for several African countries, including Zimbabwe.  Those conditions would make travel difficult for players involved in the event.

The tournament was expected to provide the final three spots for the ICC Women's World Cup in New Zealand next year as and also decide the remaining two spots for the next cycle of the ICC Women's Championship.

The places will now be decided based on team rankings, in keeping with the tournament's playing conditions.

As a result, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the West Indies will now progress to the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup in New Zealand, with Sri Lanka and Ireland occupying the other slots for the 2022-25 cycle of the ICC Women's Championship.

On Saturday, the scheduled games were already underway with Zimbabwe facing Pakistan and USA taking on Thailand.  The West Indies were scheduled to face Sri Lanka but that game was called off after a member of the Sri Lanka support staff tested positive for the virus.  The event was later abandoned.  In their first encounter, the Windies Women cruised to a six-wicket win over Ireland.

West Indies Women captain, Stafanie Taylor, has warned against complacency from her team as they begin their quest to qualify for the 2022 ICC Women’s World Cup to be held in New Zealand from March to April in 2022.

The Windies Women open their campaign tomorrow at 2:30am local time against Ireland in Harare and Taylor has warned against underestimating their opponents.

“That’s one thing you don’t want to do. Everyone’s here to win the competition. We’re not here to take any team for granted. We’re here to play hard cricket and come out on top,” said Taylor.

With the West Indies Women having completed a 3-0 series sweep against Pakistan prior to their arrival in Harare, Taylor says she hopes the team can carry their momentum into the tournament.

“I think we had a good series against Pakistan so I would love to see us continue where we left off from there. We’ve been playing some good cricket and getting some really good scores from our top players and even the lesser batting line up," she said.

Taylor concedes, however, that even with the team entering the qualifiers in good form there are still areas that need improvement.

“In our batting, it’s running the first one hard, turning twos into threes. In bowling, bowlers need to get early wickets and eliminate the wides,” she said.

The captain also provided some insight into the confidence of the team coming off some good results before the tournament.

“The morale is pretty good, especially seeing batters getting runs. I think that’s something that we’ve been working on because we’ve been relying on the bowling department for quite some time now so it’s really nice that the batters have been scoring those runs,” she said.

The West Indies other group games will be Saturday, November 27th against Sri Lanka and Monday, November 29th against the Netherlands with both matches beginning at 2:30am local time.

The Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifiers feature nine teams divided into two groups.

West Indies Women are in group A alongside Ireland, Sri Lanka and The Netherlands while group B comprises Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Zimbabwe and the USA.

Papua New Guinea were also supposed to be in the field but had to withdraw after a Covid-19 outbreak within the team before boarding their flight to Zimbabwe.

The top three teams from each group will advance to the Super 6 phase and the top three teams at the end of that phase will qualify for the 2022 World Cup alongside Australia, India, New Zealand, South Africa and England.

 

West Indies Women head into the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier on a winning note after defeating Thailand women by 151 runs in their warm-up match at the Sunrisers Sports Club ground in Harare.

West Indies Women posted 230-6 from their 50 overs, with Thailand Women replying with 79 all out in 36.3 overs.

The West Indies Women owed their score to Deandra Dottin, who scored 101 and Hayley Matthews, who contributed with 57.

 Onnicha Kamchomphu took 2-26 while Suleeporn Laomi returned figures of 2-37.

Thailand was never in the hunt, despite Chanida Sutthiruang’s 37.  Sornnarin Tippoch was the next best scorer with nine as Shakera Selman took 2-1 and Aaliyah Alleyne 2-9 proved too much for the opposing batters.

Naturally, Head Coach Courtney Walsh was pleased with the outcome ahead of the first match on November 23 against Ireland.

“It was good to get in a practice match in Zimbabwe to get accustomed to the conditions. The ladies went out and did what was required,” he said.

“Deandra and Hayley had good knocks, so it’s good to see the runs continuing from over from Pakistan. We gave all the bowlers a chance to get a feel of the pitch here in Zimbabwe. It was important to get match practice as Papua New Guinea pulled out so we are short one game.”

Walsh believes winning the series against Pakistan 3-0 and overwhelming Thailand will boost the confidence of his players.

“Once you keep winning you’re going to keep having confidence. We left Pakistan pretty confidently and it’s important to keep that momentum and not taking anything for granted,” he said.

“Obviously, this was just a practice game but the win is important for team morale and then we have a few days before we start the competition, so it’s good to get that win under our belts.”

The West Indies Women will continue their training schedule for the next three days before they bow into World Cup qualifying action.

Pakistan eased to a 2-0 series win over Zimbabwe with a victory by an innings and 147 runs in their second Test at Harare Sports Club.

The hosts won the first Test inside three days but were just about taken to a fourth day this time around after Regis Chakabva and Brendan Taylor stood firm for Zimbabwe.

However, Pakistan required just one wicket in Monday's session, and they got it in five overs thanks to Shaheen Afridi, who finished on 5-52 by taking Luke Jongwe (37).

Jongwe and Blessing Muzarabani initially looked comfortable and added 11 runs to Zimbabwe's tally before the former was coaxed into a drive by Shaheen.

The ball edged through to Mohammad Rizwan to send Zimbabwe packing for 231 as Shaheen joined Hasan Ali and Nauman Ali in taking five wickets in the one-sided series.

It marked the first time Pakistan had three bowlers claim five wickets in the same Test. Such a feat has only been achieved six times in Test cricket history and not at all since 1993.

Hasan Ali was named the player of the series for his twin five-wicket hauls in the first and second Tests, which he put down to his hard work paying off.

"It's been a good tour for me," he said. "The pitch wasn't good for bowling, getting slower every day. 

"But the plan was simple: keep bowling stump to stump and let the batsmen make mistakes. Whenever you execute well, it's a pleasurable moment for me. 

"I'm very happy. I had hard work in the previous year. It is paying off and I'm looking forward to continuing this performance for my team."

Pakistan are on the brink of a 2-0 series win against Zimbabwe after the hosts finished day three of the second Test on 220-9.

After the tourists declared at 510-8, Zimbabwe were forced into the follow-on thanks to a career-best five-for from Hasan Ali (5-27).

Zimbabwe managed only 15 runs in 13 overs at one stage of the opening hour as any thoughts of a chase seemed to dissipate.

They did at least offer sterner resistance over the subsequent 30 overs, reaching 132 before being sent in to bat again.

Nauman Ali (5-86) skittled Kevin Kasuza for 22 and Mohammad Rizwan caught Tarisai Musakanda for the loss of just eight runs, as Shaheen Afridi (4-45) also smelled blood.

However, Zimbabwe began to get a grip on proceedings through an admirable stand from Regis Chakabva (80) and captain Brendan Taylor (49).

Taylor in particular seemed to enter short-form mode, swinging for 10 fours from just 31 balls before being removed at 142-3 as Rizwan and Shaheen combined again.

Chakabva was taken at slip by a good catch from Babar Azam, and suddenly the win was in Pakistan's sights, Milton Shumba caught for 16 before consecutive balls from Nauman accounted for Donald Tiripano and Roy Kaia as he reached 300 first-class wickets.

Shaheen bowled Tendai Chisoro for eight and Richard Ngarava for a duck but Luke Jongwe (31 not out) dug deep to keep the contest alive.

As the shadows lengthened in Harare, Pakistan switched to the spin attack but could not find the breakthrough and must return on Monday to finish the job.

 

Red-hot Hasan

Hasan has enjoyed spectacular form since returning to Test cricket this year and made it 24 wickets in five innings as he dismantled the Zimbabwe middle order in the early session.

Although he could not add to his tally as Nauman led the charge in the second innings, this was still a Test to remember.

 

Taylor fights fire with fire

After a first-innings knock of just nine, Taylor opted to attack the bowlers when he came out again, swinging for the boundary with abandon.

His 49 from just 31 balls was an entertaining ray of light for a home side for whom this contest has looked over for some time.

Pakistan strengthened their grip on the second Test against Zimbabwe in Harare after an unbeaten 215 from Abid Ali allowed the tourists to declare on 510-8.

And Zimbabwe were quickly reduced to 52-4 in reply by the end of day two as Pakistan closed on a dominant sweep of the two-match series.

The touring side, who won the opener by an innings and 116 runs, resumed on 268-4 on Saturday and could not be slowed.

It took Zimbabwe 54 balls to remove nightwatchman Sajid Khan (20), installed alongside Abid after a belated flurry of wickets on Friday, although Abid's scoring was only steady as Mohammad Rizwan and Hasan Ali also departed.

The arrival of Nauman Ali at the crease prompted a huge partnership of 169 and the duo looked immovable at the close of the second session.

Nauman was just seven shy of a maiden century, having been out for a duck in the previous match, and this looming milestone appeared to play into the thinking as Pakistan batted again in the evening.

But after Nauman hit the first ball for four, he was stumped from the second and Babar Azam swiftly declared.

That left time for the tourists to chase early wickets in the Zimbabwe innings and veteran Test debutant Tabish Khan found joy inside the second over as he trapped Tarisai Musakanda.

Kevin Kasuza, captain Brendan Taylor and Milton Shumba also departed before the day was out, with Sajid continuing an enjoyable outing with his first Test wicket.

The hosts again face a mountain to climb simply to send Pakistan in to bat for a second time, already with only six wickets remaining and 259 off the follow-on mark of 311.

Making hay in Harare

Abid scored centuries in two of his first three Test innings but had failed to supply a third since coming into this match. His average stood at 37.

Now he has a first double-hundred and a batting average of 49.6. The batsman found an accommodating Zimbabwe attack but capitalised far more effectively than many of his team-mates.

Well worth the wait

Tabish made his first-class debut in 2002-03 but only now, aged 36, has been handed his chance in the Test arena.

Not called into action until the sixth session of the match, he soon made up for lost time with just his sixth delivery, nipping back into Musakanda to set Pakistan on their way.

Abid Ali and Azhar Ali each hit centuries to put Pakistan in control on day one of the second Test in Harare before three late wickets from Blessing Muzarabani hauled Zimbabwe back into the contest.

Opener Abid carried his bat through the day to reach stumps on 118 not out and Azhar struck 126, having combined in a mammoth second-wicket stand of 236.

But after toiling on a sluggish surface for most of the day, Zimbabwe and Muzarabani (3-41) made the second new ball pay, as skipper Babar Azam and Fawad Alam followed Azhar back to the pavilion in short order and Pakistan closed on 268-4.

The hosts could at least reflect on having bookended the day effectively.

Pakistan, who handed a debut to veteran seamer Tabish Khan, batted after Babar won the toss, although Imran Butt scratched around for two runs from 20 deliveries before miscuing a pull at Richard Ngarava (1-35).

Given how Ngarava and Muzarabani impressed in their initial burst and what followed, it appears how each team uses the new ball will be vital on a benign Harare pitch.

Although Abid was the more circumspect throughout, the two centurions picked up the pace after lunch as Zimbabwe's discipline began to wane – Azhar enjoying himself backward of square and through midwicket, while Abid showed lovely timing through the covers.

After Zimbabwe persuaded the umpires to change the ball in the 53rd over, slow left-armer Tendai Chisoro (0-80) dropped short and Abid smashed the ball into Roy Kaia's knee, forcing the short leg from the field after lengthy treatment.

Azhar was the first to three figures off 198 balls, while Abid followed from his 224th delivery before a mini-collapse from 248-1.

Muzarabani drew Azhar into a drive on the up, seeing him pouched at gully by Milton Shumba, before Babar edged to Kevin Kasuza in the cordon and Alam dragged on after struggling under a barrage of short deliveries.

Abid and Azhar set up Pakistan for series win

Abid would not have envisaged being joined by Sajid Khan to see out the day, but he will resume alongside the nightwatchman on Saturday having put questions over his place in the side to bed. The opener had a top score of 26 in his 10 Test innings preceding this tour, meaning he needed to back up a 60 in the initial encounter with something more substantial.

There were no such doubts over the 36-year-old Azhar's credentials, but his century was also a redemptive one after being sacked as captain last November.

Babar fed up of counting his Blessings

Azhar's successor Babar has generally become Pakistan's sure thing across all formats and was in blistering form during the recent white-ball trip to South Africa. Not here, though, as he followed up a first-ball duck in his team's innings victory last time out with another single-figure score.

Muzarabani appears to be a big part of the problem. Since returning to international cricket last year, the seamer has removed Babar on six occasions.

Pakistan will be aiming to extend their winning run in Test cricket when they take on Zimbabwe in the second and final match of the series, which starts on Friday.

Babar Azam's side crushed their hosts by an innings at the Harare Sports Club in the previous meeting, making it three victories on the spin in the format.

Another success at the same venue will see Pakistan achieve their best Test-win streak since managing five consecutive triumphs between December 2011 and February 2012.

Zimbabwe, in contrast, have not prevailed on home soil since September 2013, recording two draws and eight defeats since that last success over Pakistan.

Their problems in the opener stemmed from a lack of runs; bowled out for 176 first time around, they managed just 134 in the second innings.

No home player registered a half-century as Pakistan pace bowler Hasan Ali finished with nine wickets in the match to help his team charge over the line inside three days.

Pakistan could even afford for skipper Babar to get a first-ball duck as they piled up 426 in their one and only innings, Fawad Alam leading the way with 140 as he showed Zimbabwe how to play on a sluggish pitch, batting for nearly five hours in total.

The all-rounder's century was his third in five Tests, having made 102 against New Zealand last December and then 109 in the first Test with South Africa in Karachi in January.

Prince Masvaure did not bat for Zimbabwe in their second innings due to a thumb injury that rules him out of contention. However, captain Sean Williams could be fit to return to action, while Craig Ervine and Wesley Madhevere may also be back to bolster the home team's line-up.

 

Hasan on the rise

Pace bowler Hasan claimed career-best figures of 5-36 in Zimbabwe's second innings, his third five-wicket haul in Test cricket in 2021. Indeed, he has taken 21 scalps at an average of just 15.5 in the format this calendar year.

His reward is a move up to 20th in the ICC Test rankings for bowlers, having only been recalled to the XI earlier this year for the home series with South Africa after a two-year spell out in the cold.

Taylor-made milestone in sight

Zimbabwe's stand-in captain Brendan Taylor admitted his team failed to capitalise on the opportunity to bat first after winning the toss in the opener, bundled out inside two sessions.

He will hope to contribute more himself, particularly with a landmark in sight. Taylor is 66 away from becoming only the third man to post 1,000 Test runs at Harare Sports Club, a feat only previously achieved by Andy and Grant Flower.

Key match facts

- Zimbabwe have managed to record one multi-game Test series victory over Pakistan (D1, L5); after going 0-1 down in this two-game series, they cannot improve upon that record this time around.
- Pakistan have won five of the past six Tests between the nations, while Zimbabwe have gone six without success at Harare Sports Club (D1, L5).
- Zimbabwe managed to catch nine of their 10 opportunities in the field during the series opener, while Pakistan dropped four catches and only recorded a 60 per cent success rate (6/10).
- Donald Tiripano was responsible for eight of the 10 runs scored from reverse sweeps in the first Test; he has logged more runs from that stroke than any other batsman in Tests during 2021 (35).
- Zimbabwe bowled 14 full tosses in their one innings in the series opener, almost three times the number Pakistan logged in their two attempts (five).

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