Fast bowlers Samiullah Khan and Sohail Khan left the Zimbabweans staring at defeat; the tourists finished the third day at 111 for 6, requiring another 159 to avoid an innings defeat after the home team declared at 479 for 6.
Samiullah inflicted the damage early on: Vusi Sibanda (23) and Brendan Taylor (4) fell leg-before to inswingers. Bowling with much pace and aggression at the other end, Sohail remained luckless in his initial overs. Several plays-and-misses mixed with leg-before shouts that had summed up his first-innings effort proved to be the case this time as well.
At 36 for 2, it required a dogged innings from Hamilton Masakadza, the stand-in captain, and Tatenda Taibu to stabilise the Zimbabweans' second innings. Sharing a 63-run partnership, Masakadza remained the more authoritative batsman. Dropped at gully off Sohail, he pulled the next delivery over midwicket for a four and square-drove an unimpressive Kamran Hussain before Taibu joined in the action by driving Shahid Afridi straight down the ground.
Although turning the ball a great deal, Yasir Khan, the legspinner, was unlucky as he not only beat the edge but also had the batsmen misreading his googly. Sensing not much was being gained, Afridi brought back Sohail and his searing yorker accounted for Masakadza, who was out leg-before for a 158-ball 44. While there remained doubts about his dismissal - replays suggested the ball drifting down leg - there was none so about Taibu's. Playing loosely, he had just evaded the extra-cover fielder but another drive away from his body resulted in a edge off Sohail to second slip, Afaq Raheem completing a tumbling catch.
Samiullah came back on as well, and there were some anxious moments before the players walked off; the umpires deemed the light to be unsatisfactory. However, in a sudden change of decision, the umpires called the players back on to the field and Sohail roared in to grab two wickets off successive deliveries. Sean Williams edged one to slip and Keith Dabengwa was adjudged leg-before.
The Patron's XI bowlers did the job after their batsmen had given them a commanding first-innings lead. Ray Price grabbed three wickets in the morning but Naumanullah scored an attacking 86 and Fawad Alam chipped in with an unbeaten 82 to add to the misery after Nasir Jamshed had punished the visitors on the second day. Naumanullah, who resumed on 46, brought up his half-century in the fourth over of the morning. Flicking an overpitched delivery from Christopher Mpofu to the leg side for two, he turned the next delivery past midwicket as the dressing room applauded a well-made fifty.
Price's introduction brought about the first six of the morning, with Naumanullah dispatching a flighted delivery right onto the sightscreen. The bowler, however, had his revenge soon. Deceiving Naumanullah with a slow, looping delivery, Price induced an early stroke and took a return catch off the leading edge. Afridi was in no mood to hang around - smashing a four and a six before holing out to long-off.
Alam remained unmoved even as Price picked up his third wicket - Kamran Hussain top-edged a sweep to square leg. He was content with defence, taking quick singles whenever he had the chance.Alam took 125 balls for his fifty, but thereafter shifted gears. He slogged Gary Brent over midwicket for his second boundary of the day and then smashed a full ball between mid-off and extra cover before pulling a short delivery over midwicket.
Left stranded 18 short of his century, Alam will be content with his determined knock, one that might prove enough to take his team to an innings victory on the final day.