THE Zimbabwe national cricket team’s batters collapsed again yesterday and climbed down from a position of strength initiated by a strong assured opening stand to surrender the first Test against West Indies by 117 runs in their pursuit of an imposing winning target of 434.
BY KEVIN MAPASURE IN BULAWAYO
It was always going to be hell of a task trying to chase such a huge total, but a 99-run opening stand between Hamilton Masakadza (57) and Solomon Mire (47) elicited hope and optimism among the locals.
But in the end, Zimbabwe managed 316 runs with the tenth-wicket stand between Chris Mpofu (33) and Kyle Jarvis (23) providing a bit of entertainment with a 53-run partnership.
A 99 run partnership between Masakadza and Mire gave Zimbabwe a bit of hope, but they collapsed in the second and final sessions of the day, losing soft wickets.
Both Craig Ervine and Sean Williams fell cheaply, while Brendan Taylor (73), under pressure to produce something on his return to Test cricket, hung around and weathered a storm from the West Indies bowlers to score a half century.
Zimbabwe started off by wrapping up the West Indies’ accumulation after the tourists resumed on 369 for 8.
Captain Graeme Cremer took his eighth wicket of the match when he clean-bowled Kemar Roach before Williams also castled Roston Chase, who was staring at a century.
Chase tried to get to his century in style, but he was beaten by Williams’ spin and he had to go for 95 and West Indies finished their second innings on 373 runs.
The task was always going to be a mammoth one for Zimbabwe who needed to break records to win.
Yet Masakadza and Mire refused to let the big total intimidate them and went on the attack from the start, mixing their aggression with composure.
Having been dismissed by Devendra Bishoo in the first innings, they counter-attacked him this time.
Their 99-run stand became the highest opening partnership in the fourth innings at Queens Sports Club and it restored hope among Zimbabweans that they could pull it off here.
They both punched and pushed on in pursuit of the target.
Masakadza was the first to go when in an attempt to smother occasional spinner Kraigg Brathwaite’s delivery knicked and Shai Hope collected comfortably.
Mire followed him with just 10 runs having been added on the board after he was beaten by Roach’s reverse swinging delivery that went on to hit the stumps.
Ervine and Taylor combined for 32 runs before the former was trapped leg before by Bishoo and at that point any hopes of a win would have surely extinguished.
Williams kept Taylor company for a short time facing 14 balls where he scored 6 runs before he was beaten by a Bishoo delivery after traveling down the track for Shane Dowrich to effect a stumping.
It was not all doom and gloom though as a 5th-wicket partnership between Taylor and Sikanda Raza produced some green shoots with 64 runs.
But those green shots were plucked off when Raza threw away his wicket with Bishoo striking again while Chase completed the catch.
If that was disappointing, then the way Malcolm Waller was dismissed would have been frustrating. In fact, it left Taylor angry with himself after he called Waller for a single that wasn’t there really for Shai Hope to take aim at the stumps with Waller way short.
Another soft dismissal followed that as Taylor kept losing partners when Regis Chakabva was caught and bowled by Chase having faced six balls.
Taylor squandered a century opportunity after he was run out.
The second new ball undid Cremer until Mpofu and Jarvis combined.
Zimbabwe: S Mire, H Masakadza, B Taylor, C Ervine, S Williams, S Raza, M Waller, R Chakabva, G Cremer, C Mpofu, K Jarvis.
West Indies: K Brathwaite, K Powell, K Hope, S Hope, R Chase, J Blackwood, S Dowrich, J Holder, D Bishoo, K Roach, S Gabriel