Zimbabwe v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Bulawayo, 3rd day

Whatever this was, it wasn't Test cricket

Wisden Cricinfo staff

May 16, 2004

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Tatenda Taibu: leading from the front © AFP

Ever since the standoff between the Zimbabwe Cricket Union and the rebel cricketers began, the kind of grotesquely one-sided day witnessed today had been on the cards. The only surprise was that it took until the second Test for it to happen. Perhaps Sri Lanka took things too lightly at Harare.

What was seen in the warm sunshine of Bulawayo was not international cricket. It was kind of mismatch which club cricketers all over the world have experienced, and cursed. Bulawayo means "place of the slaughter". How apt.

For the third day running the crowd numbered a few hundred, and they watched in virtual silence, as befits a funeral. Only the music pumped out of the PA between overs disturbed the mourning.

The essence of sport is that it a contest in which one side has a chance, even if it is a remote one. That is one thing that Zimbabwe never had. Even some of the more seasoned observers were muttering that Sri Lanka should call off the dogs as they ambled towards 700. That's usually the kind of sentiment reserved for boxing.

As it was Marvan Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara gorged themselves on powder-puff bowling until their own carelessness got them out. Neither dismissal could genuinely be attributed to the bowlers, who kept plugging away but simply weren't good enough to trouble two set batsman on a shirt-front pitch. But a sigh of relief greeted both wickets - relief that neither batsman started creating records which would have had little or no value.

This Zimbabwe side deserve full credit for keeping going. Only one of them, Tatenda Taibu, their 21-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman-captain - and occasional bowler when the situation demands - is remotely Test class on present form.

But while the chatter died down after the first couple of hours yesterday, they plugged away admirably, and after every blow, dusted themselves down and came back for more. While much to do with Zimbabwean cricket is a sordid mess, these 11 held their heads up proud.

And the way Taibu has risen to an unenviable challenge has been quite remarkable. Today, despite having only popguns at his disposal to try to stop a tank, he led by example - he kept neatly, did not concede a bye in a total of 713 for 3, and played a part in all three wickets.

But what is deeply worrying is the way that Sri Lanka so clinically cut and dissected the Zimbabwe bowlers. Quite what Australia will do doesn't bear thinking about.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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