THIS second and final Test of the Windies/Zimbabwe series still hangs very much in the balance going into the final day at the Queens Sports Club.
A game that has see-sawed for four days sees Zimbabwe with a slender 18-run lead with six wickets in hand as they go about setting a total and or attempting to save the game.
It had seemed likely that cricket fans would not be treated to a fifth day when Zimbabwe conceded a 122-run first innings deficit and then their top-order failed dismally again as they crashed to 46 for 4 soon after lunch. However, a heroic 96-run unbeaten partnership between Sikander Raza (58 not out) and PJ Moor (39 not out) has once again given their side a glimmer of hope.
The West Indies started on the fourth day on 374 for 7 and Shane Dowrich (103) and Jason Holder (110) made no mistake in notching up handsome hundreds and breaking numerous records as they amassed a 212-run partnership, which was the highest for the West Indies for the eighth wicket, by the margin of 64 runs. Eventually, they were bowled out for 448, a mammoth score after stumbling to 230 for 7 on day three.
That enormous partnership knocked the spirit out of Zimbabwe to such an extent that it seemed unlikely they would have it in them to put up more of a fight in this match.
Kemar Roach (2 for 14) claimed the scalps of both openers in the four overs before lunch. He bowled Masakadza with a beauty of a ball that seamed in from so far outside off that he did not offer a shot and then he had Solomon Mire on the stroke of lunch trapped in front as Mire played an awful cross-batted shot. Soon after lunch when Brendon Taylor (10) and Colin Ervine (22) fell to Shannon Gabriel and DavendraBishoo respectively, Zimbabwe looked to be up the creek without a paddle.
Raza and Moor have batted maturely and kept this game alive. Initially, they were circumspect but soon after tea, they hit the visitors’ bowlers off their lines and lengths and played positively, dispatching boundaries that delighted the small but growing in numbers and boisterousness crowd. Between them, they kept out 190 balls. Raza insisted after his five-wicket haul yesterday that he was a batsman who bowled and not the other way round and he backed up his chat with an impressive innings that came when his side most needed it.
If the Windies are unable to run through Zimbabwe in the morning, then the draw begins to look likely. There have been an astonishing 36 ICC Tests this year and there has not been a single draw.
After play, Zimbabwe coach Heath Streak said: “There are 92 overs left in the game, it is slow going out there. We need to get through a session and try to get to a position where we can consider setting them a target. It is going to be a hard fighting fifth day.”
West Indies captain Jason Holder said, “The morning session will be crucial. If we break this partnership early, then we have a chance to win the game. It isn’t a pitch where wickets come easily, you have to look for them and be patient as the turn is very slow.”