First Test Match, at Harare Sports Club, Day 3
Close of play: Zimbabwe 389 and 187/7; Bangladesh 134.
After a dramatic day’s play in which 16 wickets fell, Zimbabwe are expecting to win the First Test match against Bangladesh, perhaps tomorrow. On a pitch that gave some, but not excessive, help to the bowlers, bad batting by both teams was mainly responsible, but the worst came from Bangladesh, who collapsed dramatically. Robiul Islam put the skids under Zimbabwe’s second innings but again Brendan Taylor saved his team from disaster. Leading now by 442 runs, the home side is now certain to win this match, barring extraordinary circumstances.
Bangladesh resumed at their overnight score of 95 for one. There were two main possibilities in the usual early-morning conditions that assist the bowlers on this ground: either Zimbabwe would bowl indifferently and the Bangladeshi batsmen would cash in, or Zimbabwe would bowl superbly and Bangladesh would struggle. The reality was actually quite different. Zimbabwe bowled indifferently for much of the session, but they were more than matched by the dismal Bangladeshi batting.
Perhaps the Bangladeshis were too fearful of the bowler-friendly conditions, but it seemed that their policy was to emulate Zimbabwe by digging in grimly during the morning session. If so, it proved suicidal. Early on Kyle Jarvis and Keegan Meth were not consistent enough, but instead of plundering the bowling as they did the previous evening, the batsmen chose to leave all they could and defend against the straight balls. They amassed another seven runs in 45 minutes, when Jahurul Islam was lbw for 43 playing outside a straight ball from Meth, and 16 by drinks. This enabled the Zimbabwean bowlers to settle down, and they bowled better and better, with disastrous consequences for the tourists who had abandoned their natural style of play.
On 112 Mahmadullah (3) played a very poor stroke, to drag a ball from Shingi Masakadza on to his stumps, but the disasters really began at 123, when the star Bangladeshi player Shakib Al Hasan (5) popped a catch into the gully off Masakadza. Immediately Mohammad Ashraful (38) earned himself yet more vituperation from his team’s supporters by pulling a simple catch to midwicket. Mushfiqur Rahim (3) was lbw to the last ball before lunch, making the score 134 for six. During the morning session Bangladesh had scored 39 runs off 26 overs and lost five wickets in the process.
Bangladesh were not destined to score another run. After the break Jarvis took three wickets in seven balls, two of them clean bowled, and Masakadza the fourth to finish the innings within 20 minutes. The last five wickets all fell on 134. Even Zimbabwe’s batting in the West Indies had been less abysmal than this.
Zimbabwe had a lead of 255 but, with their seamers all having bowled long spells, understandably decided to bat a second time rather than enforce the follow-on. However, superb bowling by Robiul Islam soon made sure they soon had mixed feelings about this.
They lost Vusi Sibanda (4), for the second time in the match clean bowled by a beautiful delivery, this one moving away just enough to beat his forward defensive and remove the off stump. Then Hamilton Masakadza (0) drove loosely back down the pitch to give the same bowler a simple return catch, a soft dismissal unworthy of the man. Zimbabwe were 9 for two. At 16 Timmy Maruma was next to go, lbw to a full-length ball for 10, and Zimbabwe found themselves well on the back foot. At this point seven wickets had gone down for 16 runs in just over an hour of the afternoon session.
At 27 Islam struck again, as Malcolm Waller (4) edged a catch to first slip. Once again Brendan Taylor was left to shoulder the burden of the innings. At last he found Elton Chigumbura to stay with him, watchfully but without allowing the loose ball to pass. At tea the score looked rather better at 62 for four.
Islam continued to devastate the batting after tea. First Chigumbura (27) pushed a catch to gully, and then Richie Mutumbami was adjudged lbw first ball, perhaps a borderline call. The total was now 85 for six, but Taylor was still there on 36. As in the first innings, Cremer then played a calm supportive innings, and Taylor reached his fifty off 76 balls, an impressive rate given the situation. Again it was an innings more noted for keeping the score ticking over with ones and twos rather than boundaries, which were not too easy on the slow outfield.
Batting was easier now that Islam had to be rested, and the pair added 79 together, 43 to Cremer, who had most of the strike, before the latter sacrificed himself after a mix-up for which both were to an extent culpable led to a run-out. Taylor finished the day unbeaten with 81, Meth his partner with 13, and the total 187 for seven, with a lead that should ensure them victory.