Zimbabwe in trouble despite opening partnership of 99

Devendra Bishoo prepares to have a bowl Getty Images

By Liam Brickhill in Bulawayo

Tea Zimbabwe 159 for 4 (Taylor 25*, Raza 2*, Bishoo 2-34)) and 159 need 275 to win v West Indies 373 and 219

Devendra Bishoo prepares to have a bowl Getty Images

(ESPNCricinfo) Openers Hamilton Masakadza and Solomon Mire set a platform for Zimbabwe’s unlikely rearguard attempt at saving this Test match with a 99-run stand, but that was Zimbabwe’s only partnership of substance before tea on day four. Wickets for Kemar Roach, Devendra Bishoo and Kraigg Brathwaite dented Zimbabwe’s hopes, and the hosts went to the interval at a wobbly 159 for 4.

Asked to survive almost six sessions or score 434 to avoid defeat after Roston Chase fell for 95 and West Indies were bowled out for 373 this morning, Zimbabwe’s openers were off to steady start. They responded to testing spells from Bishoo with positive intent despite the turn and bounce on offer – the legspinner, whose 5 for 79 in the first innings set the base for West Indies lead, seemed the most likely to break through as there was precious little movement for the seamers this morning.

There was only one slip in position as early as the seventh over, and when Jason Holder brought himself on as first change, there were no slips at all. Catchers were instead placed in front of the wicket, between short extra cover and straight mid on, but none were needed before lunch as Masakadza once again profited from the pull shot, while Mire mixed crunching hits into the leg side with dabs and steers through gully.

Bishoo bowled exclusively from the Airport End, the end from which he did so much damage in the first innings, but this time the batsmen worked to upset his length with the sweep, both cracking boundaries with the shot. Masakadza then leaned back to pull another brace of boundaries when Bishoo dropped short.

Such positive intent was the hallmark of the opening stand, which was by far the longest of the match so far when it was eventually broken by Brathwaite’s part-time offspin. Masakadza reached fifty from 87 deliveries – his first half century at this ground – but soon afterwards popped a regulation catch to Shai Hope at short leg.

With that, the hosts were 99 for 1, and that soon became 109 for 2 when Mire couldn’t quite get his bat down on a Roach yorker in time and was bowled for 47. His dismissal brought Brendan Taylor to the crease. He looked a very different batsman to the one who last played for Zimbabwe at the 2015 World Cup. Full of his flourish and with no trigger movement, his still, upright batting oozed minimalist grace. He was also in no rush to get going, but some of the old shots were still there. His first boundary came from a ramped uppercut that went well over the wicketkeeper – a shot that most Zimbabweans will not have seen since Taylor’s century against India in Auckland two and a half years ago.

At the other end, Craig Ervine was similarly unhurried and looked in no trouble either until he played around a legbreak from Bishoo to be lbw for 18. Zimbabwe wasted a review attempting to reverse that decision, and there was a similar air of profligacy to Sean Williams’ innings. Rushing down the pitch at Bishoo, he was stumped for 6 to gift West Indies their fourth wicket of the session. If Zimbabwe can’t hold fort in this final session, this Test match could yet be wrapped up inside four days.




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