First Test

ZImbabwe v Bangladesh

John Ward

At Harare, February 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 2004. Zimbabwe won by 183 runs. Toss: Zimbabwe. Test debut: Manjural Islam Rana.

For most of the match there was little between the sides. The exception was Zimbabwe's glorious fourth evening, when their batsmen tore into the bowling, and their attack shattered the Bangladeshi batting, as Andy Blignaut veered the ball at pace to take his country's first Test hat-trick.

Zimbabwe had to overcome a nervous beginning, evidently induced by fear of losing to a team with such a bad record. After a delayed start, Gripper fell early, caught at slip off his first ball as he unwisely attempted a cut and was beaten by extra bounce. This persuaded Ebrahim and Carlisle to spurn risk as they ground out a century partnership. The rest largely followed their cautious example and the innings occupied most of the first two days. Mohammad Rafique bottled up an end for long periods, the outfield was heavy after considerable rain and - except for Ewing in his maiden Test fifty - the batting was often turgid. However, there were still unnecessary dismissals and, of the top four, only Carlisle was blameless. Six batsmen reached fifty but none went on to three figures.

In reply to Zimbabwe's 441, Shahriar Hossain and the middle order showed a determined response to three quick wickets. Mohammad Ashraful played beautifully for 98 and looked confident until he lashed at a wide ball from Streak and dragged it on. It was Streak's 200th Test wicket, almost three times as many as any other Zimbabwean.

Zimbabwe's second innings, building on a lead of 110, was another slow affair and Bangladesh began to harbour hopes of a draw. But finally, on the fourth evening, Taibu and Ervine decided it was safe to attack, both reaching their second fifty of the game. Ervine impressed observers, as he had in Australia, with upright confident strokeplay and powerful off-side driving. With Blignaut adding some meaty strokes, Zimbabwe were able to declare, leaving Bangladesh to make 353 - or bat out a day and 14 overs. In the brief session on the fourth evening, Streak could not bowl due to back spasms. But he did take the field, marshalling his troops and watching his fellow seamers rip through the Bangladesh top order, reducing them to 14 for five before the close.

The athletic Blignaut did most damage. In three balls, he trapped Hannan Sarkar lbw with an in-swinger, had Ashraful caught in the gully and then ripped one back off the pitch to Mushfiqur Rahman for a catch behind and the hat-trick. Television replays later appeared to show the ball hit pad only on its way to the keeper, but it was an extremely difficult decision for umpire Mallender. Blignaut managed just one more over before withdrawing with a thigh injury, which would keep him out of the next Test.

After the drama, the match again deteriorated into mediocrity as it took Zimbabwe until midway through the last day to winkle out the final five wickets, with Khaled Mashud playing a fine defiant innings. Taking the game as a whole, Zimbabwe's 183-run victory probably flattered them. But their golden afternoon showed what they could achieve when the force was with them.

Man of the Match: S. M. Ervine.

© John Wisden & Co