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.

Fast bowling icon Sir Curtly Ambrose believes it will be difficult for the West Indies to unearth players with similar talents to those from the team’s glory days of the 70s and early 90s because the current crop of players has not grasped what cricket means to the people from the region.

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.

The Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) has written to Cricket West Indies requesting a copy of the criteria used to award international retainer contracts and the report submitted by the selection panel on which the decision was made not to award international retainer contracts to Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul and Romario Shepherd as well as Veerasammy Permaul.

The missive to the CWI comes on the heels of the recent announcement by CWI of 18 players who were offered retainer contracts for the year July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022. Among those who were awarded were newcomers Kyle Mayers, Joshua Da Silva and Nkrumah Bonner, who had standout performances against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

However, there were no contracts for the four Guyanese players, a troubling development for the GCB.

 “The Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) notes with great concern the information that Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul and Romario Shepherd were not awarded International Retainer Contracts by the Cricket West Indies (CWI),” the board said in a statement Friday.

“The GCB is also concerned with the non-award of an International Retainer Contract to Veerasammy Permaul.”

The GCB said it is not aware and was not informed of the criteria used for the award of international retainer contracts nor were any reasons given for the non-award contracts to the four players.

“The non-award of International Retainer Contracts to these players by CWI is a matter of extreme concern to the GCB and to the Guyanese public and the GCB intends to fully investigate this matter,” the GCB said.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) chief of selectors, Roger Harper, believes it is an absolute necessity for players to get used to the idea of having to perform at the very top of their games in order to secure top-class retainer contracts.

The omission of the likes of Roston Chase, Shimron Hetmyer, Shamarh Brooks, Shane Dowrich, Sheldon Cottrell, Rovman Powell, and Oshane Thomas from the international retainer contracts lists, for the upcoming year, has rubbed a few supporters the wrong way.  Particularly, based on the fact that fewer contracts were handed out this year.

However, according to Harper, some players did not meet the minimum criteria for selection or simply did not display the quality need.

“We have to accept that these are performance-based contracts.  So, the contracts are awarded based on performance during the evaluation period, as well as the selection panel must feel that the players must play a major role or form the nucleus of the team going forward,” Harper told members of the media on Thursday.

“The players who were not awarded contracts their performances over the period did not meet the necessary criteria as well as you had new players who came to fore and performed, so they were offered contracts,” he added.

“Going forward as a culture, if we want to see our team progress, if we want to see our team compete with the best in the world.  We have to be more conscious of the fact that we have to earn our stripes and we have to perform consistently.  I think our retainer contracts are given on that basis.”

In addition to playing at least 50 percent of the games during the evaluation period, to be considered, batsmen must average at least 30 in Test and ODI cricket.  For T20Is players the player’s batting average and strike rate combined must be a minimum 150.

 

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.

The inaugural final of the Hero CPL Esports Series saw Colin Munro of the Trinbago Knight Riders take on Ish Sodhi of St Kitts & Nevis Patriots with the difficulty level of the game turned up to really challenge these players.

The Knight Riders won the toss and put the Patriots into bat and the first over of the final was full of drama with Khary Pierre picking up both Patriots’ openers with Evin Lewis and Chris Lynn dismissed going for big shots.

That left the Patriots 10-2 at the end of the first over, and that became 17-3 when Sodhi was caught in the ring off the bowling of Ali Khan.

Things didn’t improve when Nick Kelly was run out for a diamond duck to leave the Patriots innings in tatters at 18-4.

Sunil Narine kept the carnage coming when he bowled Ben Dunk for 6 and then did the same to Denesh Ramdin two balls later to leave the Patriots at 22-6.

Fawad Ahmad’s introduction into the attack only further cemented the Patriots’ woes as three more wickets fell, two of them soft run-outs as the batting team finished with 32 all out.

It was a small target but Munro was still feeling the pressure. The Patriots could have had Lendl Simmons dismissed in the first over but Chris Lynn put down a tough chance off Alzarri Joseph at mid-off.

At the other end, Narine found the boundary twice before Simmons was gone, dismissed by Imran Khan. By the end of the second over the Knight Riders were 18/1 with 16 needed from 18 balls.

Sodhi brought himself on to bowl and after a tricky start thanks to two wides, he came back well to get Narine bowled for 10.

That left the Knight Riders needing 11 from 12 and a powerful on-drive for four from Pollard seemed to swing things in his team's favour before he was yet another runout.

At the start of the last over five were needed and the Knight Riders seemed happy to get there in singles, but a wide and a no-ball from Sheldon Cottrell also helped.

It was Munro who hit the winning runs, cover driving for two to win the game by seven wickets with one ball to spare in a thrilling last-over finish to seal the first-ever CPL Esports title.

Destructive batsman, AB De Villiers, could be part of the South African team booked for a tour to the West Indies next month, which was officially confirmed by Cricket South Africa (CSA) director of cricket Graeme Smith.

 After several months of negotiations, the teams are confirmed to play two Test matches and five Twenty20 Internationals.  The venue, which will be one country, due to existing coronavirus protocols, has not yet been announced.  Originally, it was believed the matches would be held in Trinidad and Tobago, but the country's fresh battle with a COVID-19 surge seems to have put that in doubt.

De Villiers, who played in the Caribbean with the Barbados Tridents in 2016, has not played for the South African team since a Test match against Australia in 2018.  The player has, however, given repeated displays of his jaw-dropping hitting ability for the India Premier League (IPL) franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).

It was last month that South Africa coach Mark Boucher suggested the big hitter could return to the South Africa line-up for the T20 World Cup, scheduled for India from October to November.  It could still be moved due to issues caused by an outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

South Africa has not played in the West Indies since 2016.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) chief of selectors, Roger Harper, has admitted that there is some concern over the form of batsman Shimron Hetmyer after the player failed to secure a retainer contract.

The 24-year-old explosive batsman has been previously heralded as one of West Indies cricket’s brightest prospects but has not been at his best in recent seasons.

Hetmyer has not played a Test for the regional team since 2019, against Afghanistan, and has not played in a One Day International since January of last year, against Ireland.  In addition to that, the player has twice failed fitness tests during the period.

The batsman missed out on the team’s tour of Sri Lanka in February of last year and then missed out on early selection for the squad this year, after failing another following the arrival of the Sri Lankans to tour the Caribbean.  Hetmyer subsequently passed a follow-up test.

“I still think Shimron is the type of player that has the ability to be a world-class player in every format going forward,” Harper told members of the media via an online video chat on Thursday.

“Naturally, when you have that sort of potential, we want to see it reach the kind of level that he is capable of reaching.  So, yes, we are concerned.  Yes, we will continue to work with Shimron and yes we will try to give the short of focus that we think is required for him to maximise his potential.”

Despite losing out on his regional contract, Hetmyer, however, retains a franchise contract.

 

Developing players Kaysia Schultz and Quiana Joseph are among 18 West Indies Women players offered retainer contract for the 2021-2022 season by Cricket West Indies (CWI).

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).

New Zealand paceman Trent Boult could miss both Tests against England after being cleared to visit his family following the postponement of the Indian Premier League.

Kane Williamson, Kyle Jamieson, Mitchell Santner and physio Tommy Simsek will stay in the IPL New Delhi mini-bubble before departing for England on May 11.

Boult, who had been playing for the Mumbai Indians before the IPL season was postponed due to rising coronavirus cases in India, has been allowed to return to his homeland before heading to England.

He will join up with the Test squad early next month, so will not feature in the first Test at Lord's - which starts on June 2.

Boult may be back in contention for the second Test at Edgbaston and will definitely be available for the ICC World Test Championship final against India, which gets under way at the Ageas Bowl on June 18.

Black Caps trainer Chris Donaldson, who has been working with the Kolkata Knight Riders, will also return home briefly to see his family before joining the Test squad.

New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White said: "We're completely supportive of Chris and Trent taking the opportunity to see their families before heading to the UK.

"They've always been the consummate professionals and we're more than happy to accommodate these arrangements.

"We've worked closely with the BCCI and the IPL franchises on the various departure strategies and we're very appreciative of their support during what is, clearly, a very challenging time.

"Were also very grateful to the England and Wales Cricket Board for accommodating the early arrival of the four members of the Test squad currently in India."

Former Windies captain, Jason Holder, admits he has been left disappointed with how some things have been handled by West Indies cricket, particularly given his monetary sacrifices over the years.

The 29-year-old, who made his debut for the West Indies in 2013, has been an ever-present in the regional team.  Since 2014, Holder, who has been both ODI and Test captain, has been on a retainer contract with Cricket West Indies (CWI), which gives the regional team priority in many instances.

It has meant the sought-after player has perhaps been unable to ply his trade in some of the cash-rich cricket competitions around the globe, as they, at times, have clashed with regional engagements.

“I could sit down here and safely say I’ve passed up a lot of money to play for West Indies. I could have been a lot more well off than I am. I consider myself really blessed because I’ve made a lot of money in my life for a guy my age…but I probably could have made a lot more but I’ve always had that desire to play for West Indies,” Holder told the Headstrong An Innings With… podcast.  The player was addressing the situation that arises when players are often forced between signing lucrative deals and representing the regional team.

Holder was replaced as West Indies captain by, Kraigg Brathwaite, in March, after the latter’s strong showing in the team’s series against Bangladesh.  Holder was one of several players who declined to go on the tour.  The all-rounder cited health and safety concerns but also quarantine fatigue, as reasons he did not participate in the tour.

While not getting into the specific instances to which he was referring, Holder expressed disappointment with the fact that he doesn’t believe that West Indies cricket has always been generous in their handling of players that have sacrificed a lot.

 “My disappointment, however, comes when players like myself give up so much to commit to West Indies cricket, and then West Indies cricket isn’t as accommodating as they possibly can. There have been a few instances where I’ve been very disappointed in how things were handled,” he added.

 

Cricket West Indies has awarded first-time international retainer contracts to Nkrumah Bonner, Joshua Da Silva, Akeal Hosein and Kyle Mayers while newly-appointed Test captain Kraigg Brathwaite and Darren Bravo received International contracts for red-ball and white-ball cricket, respectively.

A total of 18 players have been offered contracts for the upcoming 2021-22 season which runs from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022.

Meanwhile, Roston Chase, Shamarh Brooks and Shane Dowrich are among several who have lost their retainer contracts. Also losing their contracts were Sunil Ambris, Sheldon Cottrell, Shimron Hetmyer, Brandon King, Keemo Paul, Rovman Powell, Romario Shepherd and Oshane Thomas.

“Contracts offered for the 2021-22 period sees 18 players being retained, a decrease of four from last year. Jason Holder is the only player to retain his all-format contract due to his strong Test and T20I performances during the evaluation period,” CWI Lead Selector Roger Harper confirmed.

“There are several new players offered red-ball contracts earned by their strong performances during the last period. A number of players were not retained because they did not meet the minimum requirements.”

CWI Director of Cricket, Jimmy Adams was pleased for the players who were retained.

“I am happy for all the players who have been offered retainer contracts for the upcoming period. Especially pleasing was the number of players who were awarded first-time contracts in recognition of their performances during the period under review,” he said.

“I know that the 11 players who have lost their international retainers will be striving and fighting hard to get back into the teams and earn their central contracts back next year.  These players, along with our T20 specialists, will ensure that we have genuine competition for places that will push everyone to attain higher standards of performance.”

The evaluation period for the 2021-22 contracts covered performances and statistics from April 1, 2020, to April 1, 2021 (this was also supported by statistics from the previous 2019-2020 evaluation period). This allows for all players to be appraised immediately after the evaluation period and provides a notice period before new contracts on July 1, 2021.

Below are the players who have been awarded retainer contracts.

All-Format Contracts: Jason Holder.

Red Ball Contracts: Kraigg Brathwaite, Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner*, Rahkeem Cornwall, Joshua Da Silva*, Shannon Gabriel, Kyle Mayers* and Kemar Roach.

White Ball Contracts: Kieron Pollard, Fabien Allen, Darren Bravo, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein*, Evin Lewis, Alzarri Joseph, Nicholas Pooran and Hayden Walsh Jr.

*Players offered contracts for the first time in 2021-2022

Players who are no longer receiving international retainer contracts are:

All Format Contracts: Roston Chase.

Red Ball Contracts: Shamarh Brooks and Shane Dowrich.

White Ball Contracts: Sunil Ambris, Sheldon Cottrell, Shimron Hetmyer, Brandon King, Keemo Paul, Rovman Powell, Romario Shepherd and Oshane Thomas.

 All players who are no longer on International retainer contracts are offered an A* grade Regional Franchise Contract for the following year.

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