Second Test Match, at Harare Sports Club, Day 4
Close of play: Bangladesh 391 and 291/9 dec; Zimbabwe 282 and 138/4.
For the first time, Zimbabwe face almost certain defeat tomorrow against Bangladesh in a home Test match. Again they were unable to play in any department of the game with the same skill and intensity that they did in their huge victory a week ago, and are now paying the price. They will go in tomorrow morning needing 263 more runs for victory with only six wickets left.
Bangladesh began the day on 163 for five, with their last two real batsmen, Mushfiqur Rahim (on 50) and Nasir Hossain (6) together. Zimbabwe were again handicapped by the absence of Keegan Meth, unable to take the field with his knee injury. Kyle Jarvis was again rather innocuous, while Shingi Masakadza bowled well at first, but then fell in with the negative Zimbabwe tactics of bowling outside the off stump, the aim being to tempt the Bangladeshi batsmen to chase the ball and get themselves out.
Both bowled throughout the first hour, and again Taylor showed little or no imagination with his bowling changes. The batsmen for their part were in no hurry, knowing they had plenty of time and were determined not to throw their wickets away. They added 84 in a vital partnership before Mushfiqur finally slashed a ball outside the off stump to gully and departed for an invaluable 93, superbly caught by Vusi Sibanda. The bowler was Hamilton Masakadza, part-time bowler and renowned breaker of stands, but Taylor ignored him until he was virtually forced to put him on.
Nasir reached his fifty off 97 balls, but by now Sajidul Islam at number ten was at the crease and Zimbabwe went to extreme lengths to try to keep Nasir away from the bowling. Nasir looked much less impressive chasing after the bowling rather than playing his natural game, but several mishits did not go to hand and he was unbeaten on 67 when, with nine wickets down, Bangladesh reached a lead of 400 and declared at 291 for nine, an hour after lunch. Shingi Masakadza finished with commendable figures of four for 58, while Hamilton had three for 24, both Test bests.
Zimbabwe had almost a day and a half to score 401. This time Robiul Islam bowled from the opposite end from which he had taken all his wickets in this series, and this time looked as innocuous as Jarvis had, perhaps bowled into the ground. In Zimbabwe’s situation the most sensible approach would appear to be to stay positive and for the batsmen to play their natural games, and Sibanda and Regis Chakabva did this.
Chakabva especially took advantage of some loose deliveries, moving to 22 off 25 balls, when Shakib Al Hasan came on to replace Sajidul Islam for the sixth over. He produced a superb spinning delivery to bowl a superb delivery that bowled Chakabva for 22. Gazi came on for the last over before tea to replace Robiul, and Sibanda immediately pulled his first ball for six. Zimbabwe went in for tea on 43 for one, off 11 overs.
After tea Sibanda quickly threw his wicket away in typical fashion, driving a catch straight at extra cover off Shakib for 32; 66 for two. Taylor now came in, but Hamilton Masakadza now began at last to play like his real self, with freedom and confidence, hitting two fours and two sixes in his first 22 runs – before going unaccountably back into his shell. He lost Taylor at 96 for three, trapped lbw for 10 to give Zaiur Rahman his first Test wicket. Zaiur, whose selection had been criticized by many, some time afterwards got a ball right through Malcolm Waller to bowl him for a brisk 15; 118 for four. Even with Robiul gone flat, the rest of the Bangladeshi bowlers were able to keep the situation well under control.
Strangely, with almost an hour to go, Shingi Masakadza was sent in next to join his brother, who had now virtually given up his strokeplay. They survived to the close, however, which came almost ten minutes early due to a strange decision by the umpires to go off for bad light, which in fact was rather better than it had been at 5.30 on the two previous days. Once again the late finish was caused by pathetic over rates, and if the players have to pay a penalty for them, it will only be their own fault. Hamilton was on 46 at the close and Shingi on 7. Zimbabwe live to fight another day – but they need a miracle to avoid defeat.