HAMILTON Masakadza produced his best when needed the most as his career fifth Test century rescued Zimbabwe from a calamitous start to the rain affected opening day of the second Test against West Indies at a bitterly cold and gloomy Queens Sports Club yesterday.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO IN BULAWAYO
The 34-year-old veteran opener was unbeaten on 101 runs off Zimbabwe’s first innings score of 169 for four before rain stopped play with 29 overs left in the day.
Masakadza’s brilliant century proved to be the saving grace for the hosts who looked set for another disastrous first innings batting display having lost their first three wickets inside the first 10 overs.
Playing in his 35th Test, Masakadza, who scored his maiden ton against the Windies on his debut 16 years ago, aged 17, rode his luck on his way to making history as he become just the fifth Zimbabwean player to reach 2000 Test runs after the Flower brothers, Andy and Grant, Alistair Campbell and Guy Whittall.
Accompanied by PJ Moor, the pair played with the patience and dogged determination which was missing in the first innings of the opening match to steer the hosts towards a competitive first innings total after a crucial fourth wicket partnership stand of 142 runs.
Masakadza’s knock of 101 off 171 balls included nine fours and two sixes as he also became the first Zimbabwean opener to score a Test century since Tino Mawoyo’s magnificent century against Pakistan at the same venue six years ago.
Moor, normally the more aggressive of the two players, played an uncharacteristically patient and watchful innings for his 52 off 155 balls and he will be bitterly disappointed for not sticking around for longer after being clean bowled by Roston Chase just three overs before rain stopped play.
After winning the toss and electing to bat first under gloomy skies in Bulawayo, it seemed it would be yet another case of déjà vu for Zimbabwe as they immediately found themselves in all sorts of trouble, slipping to 14 for three inside the first 10 overs.
In the build-up to the match, Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer had challenged his batsman to put on a big first innings score on the board after being bundled out for 159 in the first match which they went on to lose by 117 runs inside four days.
And after losing spearhead Kyle Jarvis and inform spinner Sean Williams due to injury and illness respectively ahead of the match, Zimbabwe’s fortunes went from bad to worse after the trio of Solomon Mire, Craig Ervine and Brendan Taylor fell cheaply inside the first 10 overs.
Windies premier fast bowler Kemar Roach produced a fiery opening spell to remove Mire for just one run in the fourth over before his bowling partner Shannon Gabriel removed Craig Ervine for a seven-ball duck.
Masakadza watched in horror from the non-strikers end as Roach returned to dismiss Taylor, who played the latter’s delivery onto his stumps.
Roach was the more impressive of the Windies bowlers as he finished the day with two wickets for 24 runs from his 10 overs while Gabriel and Chase finished with a wicket apiece.
Masakadza, who will resume Zimbabwe’s charge for a solid first innings total with Sikandar Raza (9) hopes the two can build another solid partnership.
“I just hope to I can build another partnership with Raza and see how deep the two of us can take it. It going to be very important to have whatever amount of runs we can get in the first innings and without looking too far ahead I think anything over 350 will be good for us,” Masakadza said.