Powell, spinners give West Indies slight advantage

SUMMARY: West Indies 78 for 1 (Powell 43*, Bishoo 0*) trail Zimbabwe 326 (Masakadza 147, Raza 80, Roach 3-44) by 248 runs


Hamilton Masakadza and Sikandar Raza starred with the bat on the second day at Queens, but incisive bowling and attritional batting from West Indies ensured the honours were shared at stumps.

Masakadza and Raza did enough to ensure that the hosts passed 300, which looked a long way off when they were 14 for 3 yesterday, but Zimbabwe’s progress was stalled by openers Kraigg Brathwaite and Kieran Powell. They ground their way to an opening stand of 76 in almost 47 overs before Brathwaite was eventually prised from the crease, as nightwatchman Devendra Bishoo partnering Powell until the close.

The game had moved much faster in the morning, when Hamilton Masakadza cracked the first ball of the day through the covers for four, and then collected four boundaries in the space of seven deliveries before the first drinks break.

He and Raza threatened to take the game away from West Indies with a stand that stretched to 90 runs, but with Masakadza’s dismissal West Indies forced their way back into the game. The spinners struck repeatedly with the old ball to peg Zimbabwe back, and after lunch, the quicks used the new ball to deal with the tail, as the wickets were shared around.

Masakadza had looked set to surpass his Test best on the second morning, but Jason Holder’s decision not to take the new ball when it was due slowed the game down, made scoring harder, and eventually helped West Indies break through. Three runs short of his 150, Masakadza attempted to force the pace with a slog sweep at Bishoo, but the ball ballooned off the top edge to be caught by wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich.

Malcolm Waller then went for a golden duck, flashing a drive over the top of an extravagantly flighted ball from Brathwaite, and Regis Chakabva never settled, missing a sweep at a Bishoo legbreak to be bowled for 10.

Only Raza stood firm, going to fifty with a swatted pull for six over midwicket off Bishoo. Picking the right balls to hit and using his feet effectively, he wore the responsibility of batting with the tail well and carried Zimbabwe past 300 with a flowing drive through cover point. The eventual arrival of the new ball brought about his demise, however.

Raza drove at Shannon Gabriel but edged to second slip for 80 – the first catch to be taken in the slips off a pace bowler for either team all series. An overly adventurous single saw Cremer run-out for 11, and when Roach undid debutant Tendai Chisoro with a superb slower ball, Zimbabwe were all out for 326 midway through the second session.

The clouds that had engulfed Bulawayo on the first day parted in the afternoon, and West Indies’ openers began their riposte under bright blue skies. There was a similar clarity to their batting, both men seeing the shine off the new ball ahead of stiffer challenges from Zimbabwe’s spinners.

Cremer brought himself on as early as the 10th over, immediately finding the outer half of Powell’s bat, though the edge fell short of slip. Raza, used ahead of specialist left-arm spinner Chisoro, also had a strong lbw shout turned down in his first over. Zimbabwe weren’t helped by a couple of missed opportunities.

Cremer missed two caught-and-bowled chances off Powell’s bat straight after tea, but otherwise both Powell and Brathwaite’s knocks were studies of attritional, risk-free accumulation; 19 of the 49 overs West Indies faced were maidens.

Chisoro eventually had a bowl late in the afternoon, and with his stock ball turning away from the right-hander, he looked particularly menacing when bowling at Brathwaite, beating his outside edge several times in his first spell of bowling in Tests. Yet it was Cremer, who had struggled for rhythm and consistency early in his spells, who eventually brought the breakthrough.  

Moments before the close, he got Brathwaite to spar at a quicker, flatter leg-spinner to be well caught by Masakadza at slip. After a lot of hard graft – West Indies made the lowest Test score after 40 overs in the 21st century – the wicket ensured the day ended with the balance of the match at an even keel. (ESPNCricinfo)

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