Zimbabwe made to battle on opening day
Close Zimbabwe 175 for 4 (Taibu 18*, Ervine 25*) v Bangladesh
Tapash Baisya celebrates after dismissing Trevor Gripper for a duck
Tapash Baisya took a wicket in his first over of consecutive sessions, and Mohammad Rafique chipped in with two big wickets after tea, as Bangladesh gave Zimbabwe a run for their money on a rain-shortened first day at Harare. By the close, Zimbabwe had recovered from a wobble to reach 175 for 4, but Bangladesh would have been encouraged by their efforts and perseverence, as they attempt to win a Test at the 27th time of asking.
The day began in a soggy fashion, with no play possible in the morning session after heavy overnight rain. But, the weather eventually cleared and after a two-hour mopping-up session, Heath Streak won the toss and chose to bat first. He was quickly given reason to doubt his decision, however, as Trevor Gripper carved wildly at the first ball of the second over, and Bangladesh's new captain, Habibul Bashar, celebrated his appointment with a magnificent one-handed pluck at first slip (0 for 1).
But Stuart Carlisle, who recently scored his maiden Test century against the mighty Australians, was in no mood to bow to the Bangladeshis. He carved his first ball from Manjural Islam over cover for six, and cashed in on Tapash's over-eagerness as well, as he was repeatedly given too much width. He was joined in a 107-run stand for the second wicket by Dion Ebrahim, who began in more circumspect fashion, but grew in confidence as his innings progressed.
Ebrahim had a moment of good fortune as he bisected the slip cordon to bring up the fifty partnership, and he later steered a full toss from Manjural straight through the hands of Tapash at mid-on, but chances were few and far between for Bangladesh as Zimbabwe reached tea on 101 for 1.
After tea, however, Zimbabwe's fragility was exposed. Carlisle, who had brought up his half-century from 96 balls, punched Tapash's third ball of the session through the covers for four, but then fell in the same over, as he drove too soon at a full delivery and chipped up a simple return catch to fall for 58 (107 for 2). Ebrahim quickly responded by cracking a wide one from Tapash past point for four to bring up his fifty.
Grant Flower came in to join Ebrahim, and wasn't allowed to settle as the spinner Rafique kept the runs tight with a fine spell of bowling. Flower was nearly bowled as he played back and was beaten, but it was Ebrahim who's resolve cracked first, as he stepped down the pitch and was well stumped by Khaled Mashud for 65 (130 for 3). And in Rafique's very next over, Flower aimed an expansive shot over midwicket, and Hannan Sarkar pouched a huge top-edge, running round from square-leg (133 for 4).
One more wicket at that point, and Bangladesh would have been firmly in the driving seat. But instead they were defied to the close by the admirable Tatenda Taibu and Sean Ervine, whose batting has come on in leaps and bounds on the recent tour of Australia. Both men played well within themselves as they added an unbeaten 42 for fifth wicket, and only took full toll of the few rank bad balls that came their way.
But, with just three overs of the day remaining, they made a strong statement of intent by declining an offer for bad light. It might have proved foolish, but it was undeniably bold, and it is clear that Bangladesh have another tough day ahead of them.