By Liam Brickhill in Bulawayo
Tea West Indies 154 for 3 (S Hope 56*, Powell 56) v Zimbabwe
(ESPNcricinfo) West Indies and Zimbabwe both threw punches back-and-forth in an engaging first two sessions of the first day at Queens Sports Club. Zimbabwe’s seamers struck early with the new ball, while their spinners applied pressure with the old and West Indies relied on Kieran Powell’s fifty and an unbeaten 56 from Shai Hope to go to tea at 154 for 3.
Kyle Jarvis, returning to national colours after a four-year hiatus, and Solomon Mire, on Test debut, made the initial incisions for the hosts after Jason Holder opted to bat at the toss, but a 75-run stand between Powell and Hope restored West Indies’ balance on either side of lunch. Much of their partnership was forged against Zimbabwe’s spinners, who found reassuring turn and bounce throughout with captain Graeme Cremer bowling 16 overs on the trot.
Powell had gone 29 consecutive innings without a fifty before this one. He hadn’t passed fifty since scoring twin hundreds against Bangladesh in Dhaka in 2012-13, and was made to graft by some determined bowling from the hosts. Hope, who had used up 100 deliveries by the time he entered the 40s, was no less measured and at no time were West Indies allowed to run away with things.
Powell’s first challenge was to negotiate Jarvis’ opening spell. Jarvis, looking every inch the county pro with his trendy haircut and full-sleeve tattoo, took the new ball from the City End and soon found metronomic rhythm. Keeping the ball on or around off stump in overcast, cool conditions more reminiscent of Old Trafford than Queens Sports Club, he generally erred on the full side in the pursuit of swing early on.
Powell eased him languidly through the covers and down the ground, but Kraigg Brathwaite found no such profit and gave Jarvis a comeback wicket when he couldn’t quite get behind one that left him off the pitch and feathered an edge to wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva for a 22-ball three.
Jarvis had exemplary support from Chris Mpofu throughout the first hour. Mpofu almost had a wicket too when Powell shouldered arms to one that dipped in to brush his front pad. Zimbabwe were convinced he was out but Umpire Paul Reiffel wasn’t quite so sure, and he was proved right when the reviewed decision showed the ball missing off stump.
Zimbabwe’s second review of the morning brought success for the hosts, and a wicket on debut for Mire. A little too short before drinks in the first session, Mire pitched the ball up thereafter and soon found the edge of Kyle Hope’s bat, but the ball flew between Chakabva and Hamilton Masakadza at first slip. But Mire stuck with the plan, and enthusiastically suggested a review when Hope prodded tentatively at another full one outside off. UltraEdge showed a thin edge, and West Indies were wobbling at 35 for 2.
Shai Hope – heir apparent to West Indian batting aristocracy – then displayed the sort of tempered accumulation that is becoming his trademark. Cremer kept his attacking fielders in place throughout, opting for an in-out field when it became apparent that Hope and Powell had settled in, and although there were moments of alarm when the ball gripped the surface, it seemed the pitch mostly played flat and true.
It took an inspired piece of fielding from Craig Ervine at short leg – and another judicious use of a review – to finally prise Powell from the crease. Ervine spotted Powell shuffling well outside off to sweep and preemptively started moving to his left at short leg. The ball ran along the inside edge of his bat, bounced off the pad and finally settled in Ervine’s hands as he tumbled to his left. Given not out, Zimbabwe’s immediate review confirmed the dismissal and broke what was becoming a fruitful stand to leave West Indies 110 for 3.
While Roston Chase settled and looked to attack on the leg side, Hope eased past fifty, from 121 deliveries, and also made good use of a review to deny Sikandar Raza a wicket on the stroke of tea. Pressing forward, an offspinner fizzed past his inside edge with Masakadza pouching the ricochet off his pad at slip. Zimbabwe appealed, Reiffel raised the finger, but replays showed no inside edge, keeping the balance between the two teams firm.