Impressive Taylor papers over the cracks
As was the case yesterday, Zimbabwe's battling performance in the field was undone by their technical flaws and inexperience with the bat. Set a target of 243, they never recovered from losing three early wickets, and the bulk of their runs came in a spirited fourth-wicket stand of 56 between Justice Chibhabha and Elton Chigumbura. Chibhabha, who followed his fifty on Saturday with a career-best 67 today, stood head and shoulders above his team-mates and played some delightful drives and clips off his toes. But there was no support forthcoming. Extras was second-highest scorer, and only Chigumbura (13) and Tawanda Mupariwa (16), with some slogging at No. 10, reached double figures.
Jerome Taylor, who has only just returned after a long time out with a back injury, was the pick of the bowlers, with 4 for 21 and his second Man-of-the-Match award in as many days. He started the collapse with three wickets in eight balls at the top of the order, the pick being a beautiful inswinging yorker to clean up Terrence Duffin which he immediately followed with one that Brendan Taylor expected to swing but didn't, leaving the batsman ruefully looking back at his cartwheeling off stump.
After winning the toss, West Indies had huffed and puffed their way to 242 for 9 with only glimpses that they were on top. Credit must be given to Zimbabwe who bowled well and fielded athletically throughout, but too often the batsmen allowed them to stay in the driving seat. The batsmen struggled to make any progress early on, largely thanks to the efforts of Ed Rainsford with the new ball. His partner, Blessing Mahwire, also bowled well but spoiled his hard work by gifting too many extras.
Chris Gayle and Runako Morton looked out of sorts, and it was only when Gayle slammed Chibhabha for three successive fours in his first over, the 13th, that the run-rate crept above four. Chibhabha was unfortunate in that his first ball had found the edge of Gayle's bat but Taylor spilt the chance.
Taylor made amends when he held a nick from Morton off Tawanda Mupariwa, and in the next four overs West Indies slid from 70 for 0 to 85 for 3. Gayle, who had begun to open up, edged Mahwire to Taylor for 49 and then Denesh Ramdin fell leg-before to the impressive Prosper Utseya for 4. Ramdin shook his head as he departed, but the decision was straightforward.
With Brian Lara again down at No. 6, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan launched the revival in differing ways. While Chanderpaul looked as if he was desperately searching for some sort of form, Sarwan took the attacking option, twice launching Utseya for six and for the first time putting the Zimbabweans on the back foot.
When Sarwan holed out shortly after bringing up his fifty, it brought in Lara. But so low down the order he had no time to play himself in, and soon perished to an improvised scoop unbecoming of such a talent.
Chanderpaul continued to plod, Dwayne Bravo fell to the ugliest of heaves, and only a breezy 30 from Dwayne Smith off 18 balls briefly woke the crowd from its slumber, put Zimbabwe on the rack, and saw the run-rate creak above five-an-over. His dismissal was soon followed by that of Chanderpaul, and the innings ground to a conclusion amid a series of swipes and wickets. It was more than enough but it was hardly satisfying.
The game was watched by a small crowd, who only really came alive when the irrepressible Gravy returned Lazarus-like, five years after retiring, posturing and posing on his podium in front of the Double Decker Stand. A sign teased that he might be coming out of retirement for next year's World Cup. How West Indies must wish that a few of their other old timers could do the same.
Runako Morton c Taylor b Mupariwa 16 (70 for 1)
Thin edge looking to run ball to third man
Chris Gayle c Taylor b Mahwire 49 (80 for 2)
Thick edge attempting straight drive
Denesh Ramdin lbw b Utseya 4 (85 for 3)
Beaten by slightly quicker ball
Ramnaresh Sarwan c Coventry b Mupariwa 55 (154 for 4)
Holed out to deep square leg
Brian Lara c Mahwire b Mupariwa 5 (162 for 5)
Scooped improvised shot to short fine leg
Dwayne Bravo b Rainsford 9 (183 for 6)
Inside edged filthy heave
Shivnarine Chanderpaul c Taylor b Chibhabha 46 (218 for 7)
Thinnest edge to attempted cut
Dwayne Smith b Chibhabha 30 (230 for 8)
Played round straight one
Jerome Taylor b Mahwire 6 (238 for 9)
Clipped off-stump bail
Piet Rinke c Bravo b Taylor 6 (7 for 1)
Steepling catch off a leading edge
Terry Duffin b Taylor 1 (11 for 2)
Yorked by big inswinger
Brendan Taylor b Taylor 0 (11 for 3)
Completely misjudged line
Elton Chigumbura c Gayle b Edwards 13 (67 for 4)
Juggling second-slip catch off edged drive
Greg Strydom run out (Bravo) 5 (91 for 5)
One-handed, pick up off own bowling and direct hit
Charles Coventry c Morton b Bravo 0 (95 for 6)
Slashed to cover
Justice Chibhabha c Ramdin b Bradshaw 67 (114 for 7)
Thick edge to slashing drive
Blessing Mahwire c Ramdin b Gayle 6 (116 for 8)
Gloved attempted sweep
Prosper Utseya c Gayle b Taylor 0 (116 for 9)
Edged drive to slip
Tawanda Mupariwa c Edwards b Gayle 16 (144)
Swept straight to backward square leg
Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo