Second Test

Zimbabwe v India, 2005-06

Special Correspondent

At Harare, September 20, 21, 22, 2005. India won by ten wickets. Toss: India. Test debut: W. Mwayenga.

Zimbabwe finally broke their run of innings defeats, and there was some encouragement for the home side, even though India still won without losing a second-innings wicket. The match's course seemed predictable from the moment Ganguly put them in, on a pitch grassier than Bulawayo's but lacking real pace. Zimbabwe would be bowled out cheaply; India would build a huge lead and declare; Zimbabwe would be rolled over by an innings.

The first day followed the script. Taylor drove the second ball of the match handsomely to the cover boundary, only to edge the third to slip. Even Taibu lasted only two balls, and Streak, at No. 6, was batting by the first drinks break. The batsmen had no answer to Pathan, who would have tested a more accomplished line-up. He used the old ball just as well; only some bold strokes from Coventry, who hit 37 in 32 balls, briefly put him off his stride, and he finished with seven for 59, a first-class career-best. Sehwag and Gambhir raced away again, at a run a ball, and by the close India led by 34 with only one wicket lost, to Streak, who kept his head while runs haemorrhaged at the other end.

But the second day wandered from the text. The other bowlers supported Streak well and, with fine fielding to back them up, kept India down to two an over. Gambhir, 95 overnight, became impatient as Mahwire grew more accurate, and was caught behind for 97 off an ambitious cover drive. Ganguly was also caught by Taibu, a maiden wicket for debutant seamer Waddington Mwayenga. Dravid became bogged down and fell in uncharacteristic fashion, his leg stump knocked back after he went down the pitch trying to force Mahwire across the line. Only Pathan and Harbhajan Singh seemed able to handle this unexpectedly controlled bowling, and India's eventual lead was merely 205. Streak was rewarded with six for 73, his best return in Test cricket.

Normal service was resumed in Zimbabwe's second innings, however. This time, Zaheer Khan joined Pathan in the destruction; there were four down on the second evening and, when Streak fell in the opening over next morning, an innings defeat looked inevitable. But then India's catching, previously a strength, went to pieces. Blignaut, who had taken Zimbabwe's first Test hat-trick in February 2004, enjoyed another sort of hat-trick: in the space of three balls, he survived three chances off Zaheer, missed at second slip, third slip and by the keeper trying to poach one from first slip.

Thus encouraged, Blignaut unveiled his true talent, hitting out for four sixes and eight fours. Meanwhile, Masakadza reached his fifty with a huge six over midwicket, as they added 116 in 24 overs. But Zimbabwe were still three behind when last man Mwayenga came in; he helped Blignaut add 21, but could not quite see him to a maiden Test century. Pathan finished with 12 wickets for 126, a record for an Indian seamer overseas, and India with their first victory in four Tests at Harare.

Man of the Match: I. K. Pathan. Man of the Series: I. K. Pathan.

© John Wisden & Co.