By Liam Brickhill in Bulawayo
Tea West Indies 288 for 7 (Dowrich 36* Holder 25*, Raza 5-61) trail Zimbabwe 326 by 38 runs
(ESPNcricinfo) An electric bowling performance from Sikandar Raza kept West Indies to 288 for 7 at tea on the third day at Queens Sports Club, 38 runs short of Zimbabwe’s effort in the first dig. Raza tore through West Indies’ batting with 5 for 61 – his maiden five-wicket haul in professional cricket, and the first five-for from a Zimbabwe spinner since Ray Price’s 5 for 199 against West Indies in 2003.
With a few exceptions, Raza’s control of line and length was exemplary all day and his repeated strikes lifted Zimbabwe in the field. They were in need of some pepping up after opener Kieran Powell and nightwatchman Devendra Bishoo stretched their partnership beyond fifty this morning. With Graeme Cremer struggling for rhythm and edges flying between fielders or dropping in front of them in the first session, Powell eased past fifty from 133 deliveries, and slowly began to assert himself.
When a chance eventually did come, via the top edge of a Bishoo slog-sweep, it was put down by Brendan Taylor at midwicket – the first of five opportunities that Zimbabwe let slip through the day. It was left to Raza to make the breakthrough all on his own, drawing a false shot from Bishoo and holding on to a regulation caught-and-bowled chance. Offering generous flight, Raza struck again soon after when an offbreak kept a little low to peg Kyle Hope, playing back, in front of middle stump. A desperate review couldn’t save him, and West Indies went to the first drinks break at 135 for 3.
With Powell still at the crease the advantage remained with West Indies, and he was granted another life – having already been dropped on 11 yesterday – when he drove a full delivery straight back to Cremer on 85. The legspinner couldn’t quite wrap his hands around the stinging chance, and vented his frustration with a wild return in the same over.
Zimbabwe’s frustration was beginning to show, and Powell seemed assured of a fourth Test hundred. But the new ball, taken half an hour before lunch, changed the complexion of the session. Chris Mpofu, steaming in from the City End, got the hard new ball to leap alarmingly at Powell, who could only fend to Craig Ervine in the gully to be caught 10 short of his ton.
The wicket put the pep back in Zimbabwe’s step, and there were two slips and a short leg for batsman Roston Chase when he faced up to Tendai Chisoro. But if there were any nerves for Chase, he didn’t show it, striking a towering straight six in the last over before lunch.
After the interval, however, the Raza show kicked into top gear, and West Indies stumbled from 219 for 4 to 230 for 7. He started with the breakthrough that stalled Chase and Shai Hope’s fifth-wicket stand at 56, beating Chase’s reverse sweep with a fizzing offbreak to dismiss him leg before for 32. Jermaine Blackwood played too early at a delivery that bounced with a puff of dust and broke sharply in to him, chipping a catch to Cremer at midwicket, and when Raza beat Shai Hope’s defences to rattle his off stump, he set off on a celebratory run towards midwicket, mobbed by ecstatic team-mates.
The celebration was an appropriate one. With Cremer struggling for rhythm, Chisoro bowling well without any luck, and catches going down in the field, the buzz Raza brought to Zimbabwe in the field was sorely needed. Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich kept West Indies afloat with a half-century stand laced with boundaries, but thanks to Raza Zimbabwe may still take a slim first-innings lead this evening.