Jacobs denies brave Zimbabwe
Close Zimbabwe 507 for 9 dec and 200 for 7 dec drew with West Indies 335 and 207 for 9 (Jacobs 60*)
On the back foot: Chris Gayle hits out before he was caught behind for 13
Zimbabwe were denied a rare Test victory after years of defeat and failure, as the last-wicket pair of Ridley Jacobs and Fidel Edwards successfully played out the last 32 minutes and 71 deliveries to secure a thrilling draw at Harare. The weather remarkably stayed fine to the end, but it was only to mock the earnest, but ultimately futile, efforts of the heart-broken Zimbabwe side.
Zimbabwe had the game all but wrapped up when West Indies sunk to 204 for 9, but Jacobs, who finished on 60 not out, and Edwards emerged as the last-ditch heroes to hold out for the draw. Ray Price, who became only the third Zimbabwean bowler to take ten wickets in an innings, bowled his heart out, wheeling through 38 overs without a break. Heath Streak would gladly have swapped his Man of the Match award after his first-innings century and superb bowling for what would have been a wonderful victory after 11 successive defeats.
Streak perhaps left his declaration too long, waiting until shortly before the close of the morning session with a lead of 372. West Indies began their quest for safety cautiously, but a dramatic 15 minutes extinguished any hopes they had of an unlikely victory.
After Wavell Hinds and Chris Gayle departed in quick succession, Streak picked up the big wicket of Brian Lara - with a bit of help from Billy Bowden. Streak deceived Lara with a ball that moved back in on him as he padded up and Bowden gave him out lbw. The replay, however, suggested that it had not come back enough to hit off. The fielders, and the crowd, were ecstatic as the unfortunate Lara made his way back to the pavilion for 1 and Zimbabwe sensed they were on to something (38 for 3).
With all sniffs of victory gone, Daren Ganga and Ramnaresh Sarwan applied themselves to survival without the pressure or a required run rate. There were, remarkably in this modern era, no extras in the innings until the total reached 66 - at which point Andy Blignaut produced a superb delivery which beat Sarwan and would have trapped him plumb lbw, had Bowden not called no-ball.
Both batsmen, though, cracked under the pressure created by spinners Price and Trevor Gripper. Ganga yorked himself for 16, leaping down the pitch to Price (73 for 4), while Sarwan also left his crease to Gripper, and was stumped for 39 (103 for 5).
The last two recognised batsmen, Shivnarive Chanderpaul and Jacobs, put up a good fight for 78 minutes. They played well, but not with the care that one would expect with only a draw to play for. And that partnership came to an end after 68 runs when Chanderpaul clipped Price straight to midwicket (171 for 6).
Even though they were making good progress, Zimbabwe struggled under the handicap of having only two threatening bowlers in Streak and Price. But Blignaut came on to bowl his fastest and most telling spell of the match. As if inspired, he bowled at a much greater speed and gave the batsmen a torrid time.
He had Drakes caught by Tatenda Taibu, fending off a rearing ball (184 for 7), and then Jerome Taylor was taken low at fifth slip where Stuart Matsikenyeri juggled it and held the rebound from his hand. And after the third umpire was called to confirm the catch, Taylor was on his way for 3 and West Indies were starting the death march on 191 for 8. And the crowd knew it too, coming to life with cheers and songs in an atmosphere rarely seen outside one-day internationals.
Jacobs in the meantime had reached his fifty, batting well but taking a few risks that were unnecessary considering his team's plight. Corey Collymore was next to go, for 1, pushing a catch to silly mid-off to give Price ten wickets for the match (204 for 9). And that was that ... or so everyone thought.
Edwards joined Jacobs with the light fading and the big shadow of the Western Stand across the field, forcing Zimbabwe to resort to spin at both ends. But the batsmen remained obdurate. Price was no doubt tired, Gripper innocuous, and that last wicket just would not fall. By the close all the fielders were within about five yards of the bat, but the batsmen did their job marvellously. They saw out the last twelve overs and didn't give anything away, keeping their cool as the pressure increased.
For Zimbabwe, all that was left was to reflect on what might have been, and the injustice of life in a country where nothing ever seems to go right.