Zimbabwe are 168 runs behind and have already lost both opening batsmen, on a surface that is now taking significant turn

Lunch Zimbabwe 287 (Raza 85*, Rashid 4-138) & 90 for 2 (Musakanda 9*, Williams 35*) trail Afghanistan 545 for 4 (Hashmatullah 200*, Jamal 55*) by 168 runs

Afghanistan are eight wickets away from winning the second Test against Zimbabwe in Abu Dhabi and sharing the series, with Zimbabwe chipping away at a deficit that remains significant. Zimbabwe are 168 runs behind and have already lost both opening batsmen, on a surface that is now taking significant turn.

Unlike the first Test, which was over in two days on a green-tinged pitch, this strip has played to reputation. With little in it for seam and spin for most of the first three days, runs flowed and Afghanistan racked up the fifth-highest score at this venue. Zimbabwe should have batted with more discipline on the third day but were bowled out with a deficit of 258 and forced to follow-on, and now find themselves in trouble as they seek a first Test series win since 2004.

Kevin Kasuza and Prince Masvaure started the day cautiously, against a tight Afghan attack. They managed just 10 runs in the 11 overs before Masvaure decided to take on offspinner Javed Ahmadi, who continued a spell that started on the third evening and stretched to 12 overs. Masvuare found boundaries behind square on the on and offside as Ahmadi tossed it up, which ended up working to his advantage. In his next over, Ahmadi offered similar deliveries on all six balls, ending with a full toss that Masvuare drove straight back to him.

Four balls later, Kasuza played inside the line trying to defend a Rashid Khan googly and found the outside edge. Rahmat Shah at first slip took the catch. Rashid could have had a wicket with his next ball when Sean Williams poked at a delivery that took the shoulder of the bat and fell short of first slip.

With two new batsmen at the crease and men around the bat, Afghanistan continued to apply pressure on Zimbabwe, and Williams’ approach was to counterattack. When Ahmadi gave him a half-tracker, Williams dispatched it through wide long-on for four, when Ahmadi offered width, he drove square for four more and when Amir Hamza tossed it up, Williams slog-swept over mid-wicket for six. Tarisai Musakanda attempted something similar but only got a top-edge that evaded Asghar Afghan at mid-on. Afghanistan would not have minded that too much, knowing that if Zimbabwe continue to take risks, the opportunity to take wickets will remain.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

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