Inaugural Test Match

West Indies v Zimbabwe 1999-2000

Toss Zimbabwe. Test debuts C. H. Gayle, W. W. Hinds; B. A. Murphy.

A stirring display of fast bowling on the final day saved West Indies from adding another embarrassing chapter to their recent book of woes. Zimbabwe's bowlers, inspired by Streak, had routed them twice to present their own batsmen with a target of 99 on a worn but still firm pitch. But against Walsh and Ambrose, and with Rose and King rising to the occasion, the Zimbabweans could not grasp the gilt-edged chance, slumping to 63 all out, their first Test total under 100. Ambrose returned figures of 11-6-8-3; there was only one, edged, boundary in 47 overs, and Zimbabwean coach Houghton said that "there was hardly a ball to be hit anywhere off the square". West Indies' escape, one of a number throughout the Walsh-Ambrose era, provided only the second instance of a Test side successfully defending a target below 100 (Australia dismissed England for 77 chasing 85 at The Oval in 1882).

Zimbabwe owed their ascendancy to Andy Flower's seventh Test century, sandwiched between two disciplined bowling performances. Streak, on his 26th birthday, removed Griffith third ball after Flower sent West Indies in on the rain-spoilt first day, and added three more next day. Leg-spinner Brian Murphy, a law student from Cape Town University, picked up three on debut to ensure a modest total. Fellow-debutants Chris Gayle and Wavell Hinds, two Jamaican left-handers, were the most enterprising West Indians. Tall and powerful, Gayle stroked six fours before Murphy's athleticism ran him out, while Hinds, unbeaten for almost three hours, held the lower order together while the score was more than doubled.

Zimbabwe's reply stuttered for a time after Ambrose trapped Johnson first ball, but Gripper and Andy Flower fashioned a determined stand of 117, spanning four and a half hours. Flower benefited before scoring from umpire Bucknor's not-out decision on a gloved, leg-side deflection to the wicket-keeper off Walsh, and later from four missed chances as he moved towards an unbeaten hundred containing 12 fours. He remained entrenched for 431 minutes and 290 balls. Streak helped him add 68 before three swift wickets for Gayle's off-spin kept the lead to 49.

West Indies' batting let them down again as Streak struck twice in his first over. Although Chanderpaul and Adams dragged the score up from 37 for three to 115, the remaining batsmen managed just 32 runs. At the start of the final day, when Streak took his match haul to a Test-best nine for 72, Zimbabwe were on the verge of a historic victory.

Instead, the traditional West Indian four-pronged pace attack wrote history in their own favour. After Johnson was despatched in Walsh's second over, Grant Flower and Gripper dug deep for an hour until King broke through. Rose flattened the middle order, all to catches by wicket-keeper Jacobs, while at the other end Walsh bowled Grant Flower with one that kept low. In frustration, Flower demolished the stumps to earn a suspended ban and fine; apart from him, no one reached double figures. Ambrose returned before tea to remove the last three in 13 balls and draw alongside Malcolm Marshall on 376 wickets, with only Walsh among West Indians ahead of him.

Victory complete, Adams gathered his elated troops in a huddle of prayer on the outfield before setting off on a joyous lap of honour in front of the sparse crowd.

Man of the Match: C. E. L. Ambrose.

© John Wisden & Co