Pitch report: Harare Sports Club

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There have only been three days between Tests, and the groundstaff have a tough job getting a decent pitch prepared in that time. It is assumed the wicket will deteriorate quicker in this game, especially in the heat.

<b>Capacity:</b> 15,000<br><b>Floodlights:</b> Yes<br><b>Ends:</b> City End, Club House End<br><b>Home Team:</b> Mashonaland<br><b>Test History:</b> 30 Tests; 7 home wins; 15 away wins; 8 draws<br><b>Last 10 Tests:</b> 4 home wins; 6 away wins<br><b>Last 10 tosses:</b> 2 batted first (2 wins); 8 bowled first (2 wins, 6 defeats)

<b>Overview</b><br>Situated on the leafy outskirts of the city's CBD, Harare Sports Club is one of world cricket's most pleasant grounds.

Even after the renovations prior to the 2003 World Cup, the venue has retained its laid back air, with plenty of informal stands and a newly made grass bank on the east side.

The western stand is the only one with bucket seating, having originally been built for members of the tobacco industry, who have long been ardent cricket watchers.

While the dressing rooms moved to a modern building in 2003, the original gabled pavilion has maintained some charm and houses both The Maiden – an old-style pub, and the Red Lion – a classic Rhodesian drinking hole whose regulars have hardly changed.

Castle Corner has kept its place on the south-west corner of the ground among the temporary stands, behind which the beautiful jacarandas continue to add a very Zimbabwean character.

A record crowd of 26,000 saw Rhodesia play the MCC in 1956, while the ground hosted Zimbabwe's first Test in October 1992 and was the venue for Zimbabwe's maiden Test victory – against Pakistan in 1995.

<b>Last Time Out</b><br>The most recent Test was just a few days ago, with Pakistan securing a massive 221-run win on day five after the previous four days played out fairly evenly until Saeed Ajmal arrived.

Pakistan had batted first and scored a disappointing 249 as the home bowlers did a good job of restricting the scoring. Azhar Ali top-scored with 78, while pacemen Tinashe Panyangara and Tendai Chatara took three wickets each.

The hosts replied with 327 all out as three of the middle order recorded fifties. Sikandar Raza, on debut, made 60, Malcolm Waller added 70 and Elton Chigumbura's 69 ensured a lead of 78 runs. Saeed Ajmal took seven of the wickets to fall.

Pakistan's second innings was all about Younis Khan, who made 200 not out off 404 balls, batting for nearly 10 hours. his innings took Pakistan to 419 for nine declared, laving Zimbabwe with a target of 342 to win.

Zim were put in to bat late on day four, and reached stumps on 13 for one. Day five then turned into a disaster as they were all out for 120. Ajmal and Abdur Rehman demonstrated the need for a good spinner, taking four wickets each.

<b>They Said</b><br>Zimbabwe batsman Hamilton Masakadza, ahead of the second Test: "It's going to get a lot worse, a lot quicker. It's going to be tough for the groundsman with such a short turnaround and the spinners will definitely come into play much more in the second innings."

Zim batting coach Grant Flower: "We know they will have something ready for us, we just don't know what to expect."

Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq expressed concern: "The pitch (is a) really big concern for us. It's going to be tricky but we need to be prepared – especially mentally prepared – and we need to be professional."

<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><br>A long line of illustrious former batsman, including brothers Grant and Andy Flower, line the run-scoring charts at this venue – and gradually claiming their own bragging rights are <b>Hamilton Masakadza</b> and <b>Brendan Taylor</b>.

Masakadza has scored 654 runs in 18 innings (average: 38.47) here, while Taylor's tally has climbed to an impressive 536 in 12 (average: 53.60) – thanks largely to April's back-to-back centuries. He missed the first Test due to the birth of his son, but will be keen to add to his records this time round.

For Pakistan, <b>Younis Khan</b>'s unbeaten double century in the first Test gives him an inflated average of 83.66 here.

Bowling-wise, seamer <b>Shingi Masakadza</b> leads the current pack on the back of 13 wickets in three matches at a ground aggregate of nearly 24. <b>Saeed Ajmal</b> has 11 wickets here, all of which came in the first Test last week.

<b>Weather Forecast</b><br>Clear. Sunny. Not raining. Hot. Pretty much perfect.

<b>Conclusion</b><br>The playing surface hasn't changed much over the past eight years. It has always had a bit of pace and seam for the fast bowlers to start with, but generally has very even bounce and can be on the flat side.

But this time, there have only been three days between Tests, and the groundstaff have a tough job getting a decent pitch prepared in that time. It is assumed the wicket will deteriorate quicker in this game, especially in the heat.

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