BANGLADESH v ZIMBABWE
First Test Match, at Harare Sports Club, Day 2
Close of play: Zimbabwe 389; Bangladesh 95/1
“Occupy the crease at all costs.” After Zimbabwe’s disastrous batting on their recent tour to West Indies, this appeared to be their chosen policy to regain their confidence against Bangladesh at Harare Sports Club – and, despite all the criticism they have taken over the first two days, it has been largely successful. Whether it will eventually win them this match remains to be seen, but the short-term objective has been achieved, mainly through the determination and skill of their captain Brendan Taylor. Bangladesh made an impressive start to their reply, though, and unless Zimbabwe can break through on the third morning a draw will be the most likely result.
Taylor dominated the first half of the day. He had 105 on the board already when Zimbabwe resumed on the second morning with 217 for four, and made it clear from the start that he was set for the long haul. His partner, Elton Chigumbura, quickly cut a powerful boundary, but in only the second over drove a tame return catch to Rubel Hossain, departing for 12. Richie Mutumbami played a brief cameo with 11 off 13 balls, but two wickets down in the first half-hour was not what Zimbabwe wanted, and they immediately dug in deep again as Graeme Cremer joined his captain.
There followed a partnership of 106, dull for many to watch, but exactly in line with Zimbabwe’s policy. It was a period of steady accumulation, with Taylor adding just 30 runs before lunch, while his team made 68 in the 30 overs. It took him about an hour to pass 117, his previous best Test score, and then after lunch he passed 1000 Test runs, for an average of 32, and reached his own 150.
At this point the pair felt it was time to open up a bit, but then they lost the wicket of Cremer, for his own best Test score of 42, to a brilliant diving catch by Mahmadullah at slip. In the next over Taylor, perhaps losing concentration, edged a sweep which hit the keeper on the shoulder, for him to catch the rebound, and the seventh and eighth wickets had both fallen on 344. Taylor was gone for a monumental 171, scored off 324 balls, with only eight fours and two sixes, an illustration of the great determination and care he had taken over 489 minutes – just over eight hours.
Zimbabwe were not finished yet, as the ninth-wicket pair of Keegan Meth and Shingi Masakadza looked quite comfortable as they added 37 together, both eventually scoring 21. The total was 389. There were three wickets each for Robiul Islam and Enamul Haque, who had to bowl 38 and 47 overs respectively. Bangladesh had only four front-line bowlers, and of these the flighty Sohag Gazi was rather underused.
Kyle Jarvis bowled an impressive first over when Bangladesh batted, but a vital opportunity was missed when Cremer at third slip dropped a chance from Jahurul Islam off the sixth ball. Thus encouraged, Islam and his partner Shahriar Nafees played positively, in particular driving well as the bowlers pitched the ball up, often too much, to try to maximize swing. After five overs the score was already 32.
Taylor did not panic and he stuck with Jarvis and Meth, the move finally succeeding on 53 when Nafees (29) tried to turn a ball from Jarvis to leg, only to slice it to backward point. The same bowler almost dismissed the next batsman, Mohammad Ashraful, lbw for 2, and was most distraught to have the appeal turned down.
The scoring rate did slow somewhat, but there were still some fine drives played, and it appeared that the green pitch is not as detrimental to the Bangladeshi batsmen as the Zimbabweans had hoped. However, the vital period of the match may well be tomorrow morning, when the pitch should help the bowlers more – as long as the fielders can hold their catches and the bowlers do not overpitch so much. By the close Bangladesh had reached 95 for one off 25 overs, with Islam on 38 and Ashraful 23.
One pleasing feature was the presence of an enthusiastic afternoon crowd of several hundred people.