A FIGHTING half century by middle order batsman Sikandar Raza for the hosts and a crucial wicket by their skipper Graeme Cremer from his penultimate over of the day ensured honours remained even on the second day of the second Test between Zimbabwe and West Indies at Queens Sports Club yesterday.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO IN BULAWAYO
After Zimbabwe posted 326 all-out in their first innings, West Indies looked set to go for stumps without losing a wicket as openers Craig Braithwaite and Kieran Powell put up a first-wicket partnership of 76 runs.
Cremer, however, ensured that Zimbabwe finished the day on a high after taking the big wicket of the dangerous Braithwaite (32) as the Windies finished the day on 78 for one and 248 runs behind.
Earlier, the hero of the opening day for Zimbabwe, Hamilton Masakadza, managed to continue from where he left off yesterday after adding 46 runs from his overnight score before his brilliant innings came to an end with a top-edged sweep shot off the bowling of Devendra Bishoo.
Although Zimbabwe went on to lose the wickets of Malcolm Waller (first ball duck) and Regis Chakabva (11) in quick succession, Raza’s brilliant career fifth half century ensured Zimbabwe posted a competitive 326 all-out in their first innings.
Raza, who was caught at slip by Kyle Hope off the bowling of Shannon Gabriel, finished as Zimbabwe’s second highest scorer with his 80 off 147 deliveries, which included six fours and a six.
It completed the turnaround for the hosts, who had looked in all sorts of trouble on the opening day after being reduced to 14 for three inside the first 10 overs after electing to bat first, before the big partnership between Masakadza and PJ Moor (52).
Kemar Roach was the pick of the Windies bowlers as he finished with three wickets for 44 runs off 18,1 overs, while Gabriel and Bishoo both chipped in with two wickets each.
Desperate to level the series after being humbled inside four days in the opening Test, Zimbabwe began the defence of their first innings total with three spinners and a lone paceman in Christopher Mpofu, a strategy that was necessitated by the injury to Kyle
Jarvis’ absence was strongly felt as seam duo of Mpofu and Solomon Mire hardly troubled the Windies openers, who looked content to defend without taking any risks.
It was only after the introduction of the spinners that Zimbabwe started causing problems for the tourists.
Powell was dropped twice on 11 by skipper Cremer in the first over after the tea interval, while debutant Tendai Chisoro also looked threatening with his off-spin.
Creamer would, however, make amends for the difficult missed opportunity by claiming a crucial wicket just before the close of play, which should give the hosts a huge lift ahead of the penultimate day.
Zimbabwe: H Masakadza, S Mire, C Ervine, B Taylor, P Moor, S Raza, M Waller, R Chakabva, G Cremer (c), T Chisoro, C Mpofu
West Indies: K Brathwaite, K Powell, K Hope, S Hope, R Chase, J Blackwood, S Dowrich, J Holder (c), D Bishoo, K Roach, S Gabriel