West Indies in commanding position against Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe, without Andy Flower and with never-ending political wrangling in the background, had another dismal innings with the bat that has virtually ensured another heavy defeat at the hands of the resurgent West Indies. Their overall performance was, if anything, even worse than it had been in Bulawayo as they mustered a mere 131 with the bat and allowed West Indies to finish the day just five runs behind with eight wickets left.

West Indies, expecting early assistance from the conditions, put Zimbabwe in to bat on winning the toss, but although the pitch gave some movement, it was too slow to please them. They made two changes to their team, bringing in Marlon Black and Courtney Browne for Pedro Collins, unfit, and the suspended Ridley Jacobs.

Zimbabwe made only one change from the team that lost the First Test in Bulawayo, and that was forced on them. Seventeen-year-old schoolboy Hamilton Masakadza came in for the injured Stuart Carlisle. Thirteen days short of his 18th birthday, he became Zimbabwe's youngest first-class century-maker earlier this season, and now becomes Zimbabwe's youngest Test player.

Normally Gavin Rennie would have been considered, but he is manifestly out of form and confidence at present and in the two matches where he and Masakadza have played together, the latter has looked the more impressive. Masakadza normally opens the batting, but in this match he would bat at number three rather than break up the record-breaking partnership of Alistair Campbell and Dion Ebrahim, especially as he would not be available regularly until December because of his exams.

Ebrahim, full of confidence after his 75 in Bulawayo, began like a train with positive strokeplay, scoring 19 out of the first 20 when he drove loosely outside the off stump to Reon King and edged a catch to 'keeper Browne. Hamilton Masakadza replaced him, and his first runs, a turn to long leg for two, was greeted rapturously by an enthusiastic group of his schoolmates.

Campbell (13) began slowly but played a couple of delightful pulls before he was beaten and trapped lbw missing a straight ball from Colin Stuart. Masakadza, employing a high backlift, made nine before being bowled by a superb yorker from Stuart, and Zimbabwe were 43 for three. All three settled in, made a few and then lost their wickets.

Craig Wishart and Guy Whittall had to dig in to put the innings on even keel again, and runs came slowly. But Wishart (8) fell with the first ball after lunch, unwisely padding up to Neil McGarrell's arm ball to be plumb lbw; Grant Flower was perhaps doubtfully adjudged caught at the wicket next ball, and Heath Streak came in to save a hat-trick at 63 for five. He scored only six before another arm ball from the left-arm spinner trapped him right in front of his stumps; 68 for six.

Umpire Jayaprakash made another disputed caught-at-the-wicket decision when Andy Blignaut (0) drove expansively at McGarrell outside the off stump, to give the bowler his fourth wicket since lunch for only one run. Whittall responded with a couple of furious strokes off King, who was unable to maintain pressure from his end, but then settled down to play a responsible fighting innings. Television replays failed to confirm whether either caught-at-the-wicket decision was correct.

King made amends for his indifferent bowling with a fine, low catch at mid off as Tatenda Taibu (9) ballooned a catch off pad and bat, Stuart being the bowler; 95 for eight, with the partnership of 23 being the highest of the innings. Another partnership seemed to be developing with Bryan Strang when Whittall, on 43, pulled Marlon Black straight to mid-wicket, a disappointing end to a fine innings of defiance. Strang (20) still had a few of his own special strokes to offer, mowing and swatting until he skied Black to cover. Tea was taken with Zimbabwe all out for a dismal 131. McGarrell took four wickets and Stuart three.

Zimbabwe were relieved that Chris Gayle did not continue his decimation of their bowling this time, as he played across a ball from Bryan Strang to be adjudged lbw, though possibly a little high. Zimbabwe also believed they had Daren Ganga caught at the wicket off Strang on 20; again, television proved inconclusive.

Ganga and Shivnarine Chanderpaul now began to open up in a flurry of boundaries and the overall run rate approached five an over. Not even Strang was able to apply the brake and Streak alone had presentable figures. Chanderpaul especially took advantage of much mediocre bowling and raced to his fifty off 51 balls.

Ganga, less fluent but still impressive, was rather surprisingly out caught at the wicket off the unimpressive Blignaut for 43, getting an inside edge when trying at the last minute to leave a ball outside off stump. The pair had added exactly 100 and West Indies were 114 for two. With Sarwan in the scoring rate slowed, and at the close West Indies were 126 for two off 32 overs (Chanderpaul 74, Sarwan 2).