Zimbabwe coach Heath Streak admitted it would be tough for his side to bat themselves back into the match after conceding a 122-run first innings lead against West Indies in Bulawayo.
“There’s still a long way to go, 92 overs,” he said. “And it’s slow going out there, not an easy wicket to score quickly on. So we’ve got to get through a session and get ourselves into a position where we can maybe consider giving them a target. But it’s very tough, especially with the deficit we’ve had to make up, and the pitch being so slow.”
Zimbabwe found themselves 23 for 3 in their second innings before a half-century from Sikandar Raza – his second of the Test – took them to 140 for 4 at stumps.
“There’s still a lot of cricket to be played tomorrow,” Streak said. “A hard fighting day and a hard fighting first session. It’s not too far until the new ball, and we’ve got to get through that and see if we get some sort of total to defend.”
He added that, after several missed chances in the field, Zimbabwe had only themselves to blame for allowing Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich put on a record 212-run partnership. “They put us under pressure, and we didn’t help ourselves with a few dropped catches,” Streak said. “We’ve got ourselves to blame for giving them that lead, but we’ve just got to deal with where we’re at now.”
He lamented the soft dismissals that heaped pressure on Zimbabwe’s middle order once again, suggesting that wickets in hand could have helped Zimbabwe push for more of a lead heading into the fifth day.
“Hamilton [Masakadza] got out to a good ball that hooped back quite a bit, but then Solomon [Mire] got out to a soft dismissal even by his own standards,” Streak said, describing Mire’s swipe across the line at a ball from Kemar Roach that trapped him lbw. “He does play aggressively, but on that wicket and with that length, it’s very difficult to play that type of shot, especially on a fourth-day wicket when you’ve had a lot of evidence of balls keeping low. So those are the sorts of dismissals we want to get rid of. Even Craig Ervine, if he’s honest with himself, got out to a pretty soft dismissal. It wasn’t like the ball did a heck of a lot.
“If we had taken maybe two wickets off there, Mire and Ervine’s wickets, then it’s 140 for 2 and that’s a pretty good score. We’d have wickets in hand if we want to push on and try and get some sort of lead and put them in.”
One bright point for Streak was the batting of Raza and Peter Moor, who reined in his attacking instincts to finish on 39 not out from 152 balls at the close. ” PJ [Moor] is a very determined guy first of all, and he’s a very intelligent guy who has worked out watching the other guys,” Streak said. “It’s not easy to just go out there and play shots, so he’s adjusted his game accordingly to the wicket. His batting in the first innings has also given him some insight into how to do it. Anyone who has gone out there and batted for a period of time, you can see there haven’t been easy or free flowing innings from anyone.”
Apart from being slow, the pitch also fell short of Zimbabwe’s expectations in terms of help for the spinners. “Having a bit of cool weather around, has meant that the wicket hasn’t dried and dusted up as much as we would have liked,” Streak said. “So it’s been a little more placid than what we’d hoped. We wanted a wicket that would spin and break up, but the weather conditions on day one and two made the deterioration of the wicket much slower than it ought to be. Normally in October you get hot, dry days and then that deterioration happens a lot quicker.” (ESPNCricinfo)