Second Test preview: Zimbabwe v Pakistan

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Zimbabwe, despite the absence of Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams, were considerably stronger than many anticipated in the series opener – and with the pair's return, are likely to prove a formidable unit in Harare this week.

Zimbabwe, despite the absence of Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams, were considerably stronger than many anticipated in the series opener – and with the pair's return, are likely to prove a formidable unit in Harare this week.

Taylor is back from paternity leave and Williams is no longer on strike after signing a contract, with Richmond Mutumbami and Tino Mawoyo the leading candidates to make way. Graeme Cremer, meanwhile, should be a more threatening pick than Prosper Utseya – if Zimbabwe are to genuinely challenge <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>cricket betting odds</b></a>.

The host seam attack was dominant in the first Test and, with the pitch subject to a short turnaround and hence rather under-prepared, Tinashe Panyangara and company will welcome the conditions. Bowling first, again, seems the right choice for the captain triumphant at the toss.

Plenty of Zimbabwe batsmen enjoyed promising starts, but didn't convert into innings of significance last week. This has to change, with the onus on more than just Taylor, Williams or Hamilton Masakadza.

How they will fare against Pakistan's spin twins, though, remains in the balance. Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman dominated previously, despite a track that hardly deteriorated. Malcolm Waller and Sikandar Raza's defiance suggested better, and the rest can take example – on the sweep and straight down the ground.

The tourists probably won't tinker with their XI. Rahat Ali was not as consistent as Junaid Khan, but deserves another go, as does Khurram Manzoor at the top of the order. The youngsters, around the veterans, need to step up once and for all. Younis Khan insisted on this – and his words can't fall on deaf ears.

The Zimbabweans recently return to the International Cricket Council rankings, while the Pakistanis currently occupy fourth berth. There are gains, toward the top and at the bottom, for both sides – provided neither underestimate themselves.

<b>Key Men</b><br>Zimbabwe's opening combination is a concern. With Tino Mawoyo likely to be benched and Hamilton Masakadza promoted, it's up to <b>Vusi Sibanda</b> to challenge <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket/cricket-test-matches/Zimbabwe-V-Pakistan-5766242.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>odds of 4/1 as the match's top run-scorer.</b></a>

Pakistan batted around Younis Khan in the first Test and would cherish doing so again. Another big performance from the veteran will speak volumes for the hopes of the individual – and the team.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2013: First Test: Pakistan won by 211 runs in Harare<br>2011: One-off Test: Pakistan won by seven wickets in Bulawayo<br>2002: Second Test: Pakistan won by 10 wickets in Bulawayo<br>2002: First Test: Pakistan won by 119 runs in Harare<br>1998: Third Test: Match abandoned in Faisalabad

<b>Probable Teams</b><br><i>Zimbabwe:</i> Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams, Sikandar Raza, Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura, Prosper Utseya, Shingi Masakadza, Tinashe Panyangara, Tendai Chatara.

<i>Pakistan:</i> Mohammad Hafeez, Khurram Manzoor, Asad Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Asad Shafiq, Adnan Akmal, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, Rahat Ali.

<b>Dates:</b> 10 to 14 September<br><b>Morning session:</b> 10:00-12:00 (08:00-10:00 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 12:40-14:40 (10:40-12:40 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 15:00-17:00 (13:00-15:00 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Steve Davis and Ranmore Martinesz<br><b>Third umpire:</b> Jeremiah Matibiri<br><b>Match referee:</b> Javagal Srinath

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