By Liam Brickhill in Bulawayo
Tea Zimbabwe 259 for 7 (Raza 85, Chakabva 48*, Cremer 13*) and 326 lead West Indies 448 by 137 runs
(ESPNcricinfo) Zimbabwe’s battling rearguard stretched on to tea on the final afternoon of the second Test, Regis Chakabva registering an unbeaten 48 after Sikandar Raza’s 89. Chakabva’s obduracy was matched by his captain, Graeme Cremer, who contributed 13 not out from 105 deliveries to their eighth-wicket stand of 49. Zimbabwe went to the interval at 259 for 7, 137 runs ahead with a minimum of 32 overs to be bowled in the final session.
West Indies were probing with both seam and spin, with wickets shared around, and appealed heartily at every opportunity. Jason Holder also used up both of his reviews, but neither the old nor the new ball could prise a limpet-like Chakabva from the crease. With the pitch deteriorating, Chakabva played and missed at several deliveries and even ducked into a Holder bouncer that never got above waist height, but his defence held firm when it really mattered and bad balls were were met with confident strokes.
It has been eight innings – and almost three years – since Chakabva last passed fifty in a Test match. A match saving fifty in the evening would keep Zimbabwe hoping, and go some way towards securing his place in the side for their next Test against South Africa.
The hosts were also buoyed by Raza’s gritty innings, which stretched for more than five hours and 203 deliveries before he inside edged a Holder inswinger onto his stumps. During a brave, battling knock Raza survived an lbw decision given against him and a withering blow to the knee, cobbling together stands of 98 with PJ Moor, 28 with Malcolm Waller and 38 with Chakabva.
Much of his work with Moor came yesterday, and the pair had had added just four runs to their partnership when West Indies broke through almost first thing this morning. Great situational awareness, and some good catching, brought a wicket in just the second over of the day. After a lengthy fielding conference, Jason Holder positioned Shai Hope just so in the gully, having noticed the angled bat that Moor was playing with. The plan worked to perfection, Moor guiding a length delivery straight to the fielder to depart for 42, Zimbabwe 144 for 5.
A nervous starter, Waller chipped Gabriel in the air and then edged just short of slip, but seemed to have eased the anxiety with a silky smooth drive through the covers from the fourth ball he faced. He settled in against the quicks, but the introduction of spin quickly brought another wicket. Coming around the wicket and landing a ball in the rough outside leg, Bishoo ripped one across him and a tame poke presented an easy catch to Jermaine Blackwood at slip.
Zimbabwe were 172 for 6 when Waller fell an hour or so before lunch and the new ball was available, but as was the case in Zimbabwe’s first innings West Indies decided not to take it straight away. There was still significant movement and inconsistent bounce for the quicks, and the softening old ball also ensured that neither Raza nor Chakabva could get full value for all their shots.
Raza, who had survived a West Indies review in the morning, used a review of his own to reverse an lbw decision against him five overs into his partnership with Chakabva. Roach was by this time getting the old ball to reverse alarmingly, and hooped one past Raza’s hopping glance to strike him on the left knee roll. Roach bellowed an appeal, and Dharmasena gave it out almost immediately, but the review showed the ball missing leg stump. In the same over Roach snaked a waspish delivery in viciously to strike Raza on the inner knee. He was able to continue batting, but hobbled his way through to lunch.
At the other end, Chakabva opened his account from his 14th delivery, and swiped a brace of boundaries when Bishoo dropped short. He showed some uncertainty outside off stump against the genuine pace of Gabriel, but did enough to survive and keep stretching out Zimbabwe’s lead.
West Indies did finally take the new ball in the over before lunch, and Holder used it to break breach Raza’s defences just after the interval. Playing the wrong line to one that jagged in to him, Raza had his off stump disturbed and a window opened for West Indies with Zimbabwe tottering at 210 for 7 with the better part of two sessions remaining.
But West Indies had used up all their reviews trying to get rid of Raza, and this detail gained crucial importance as the afternoon wore on. First, Cremer gloved a bouncer from Holder onto his shoulder, the chance being pouched by a leaping Dowrich, but the appeal was turned down. Then, ten minutes before tea, Chase zipped one in to Cremer’s pads, but the appeal lacked conviction and Umpire Dharmasena wasn’t convinced.
Replays showed three reds on the ball tracker. Moments before the interval, Chase once again struck Cremer on the pad, but again it was given not out and West Indies could do nothing about the decision. Making the most of the chances, Cremer soaked up over 100 deliveries and, together with Chakabva, he is now very close to making this game safe for Zimbabwe.