Zimbabwe v Bangladesh, 1st Test, Harare, 1st day April 17, 2013

Competitive, but not quality

The opening day of a low-key series was a battle for both teams, but Zimbabwe earned the right to be the happier side after Bangladesh allowed the day to drift
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It was not entertainment. For that, there is a tournament being played across the Indian Ocean that not many of these two teams' players will be part of. It was a slog of a different variety.

Even though Test cricket has recently been a more exciting place with run-rates in excess of six an over at times such as when South Africa took on Australia in Perth, teams bundled out for 49 and 45 courtesy of South Africa again and nail-biting contests such as New Zealand against England in Auckland, the grind had to turn up sometime. It arrived in its complete form in Harare.

Zimbabwe and Bangladesh tussled in the grubbiest way. They struggled. They fought. They forced the worst out of each other, because, if we had to honest, the standard was far from excellent and all they got out of it was the promise that tomorrow will only bring more of the same.

The underlining characteristic of this series was unlikely to be quality; it was going to be competitiveness. The former still made an appearance: Robiul Islam's opening spell which hissed with swing and seam movement, Brendan Taylor's elegant cover drive and the Enamul Hauqe delivery that turned away sharply after pitching on off and spitting up. But it was the latter that the day will be remembered for.

The opening exchanges were cagey, the middle of the day was like watching a drowning man trying to stay afloat and only towards the end did it open up, just a touch. Zimbabwe had to survive the first two periods to gain in the third. They can attribute that to none of the first three batsmen falling to anything worse than good deliveries.

Their resolve was evident even as Bangladesh's bowlers gave them a working over in the first hour. The seamers made excellent use of favourable conditions and created five chances in the first eight overs. It seemed all Zimbabwe were capable of was holding on.

The runs came almost by accident, because they were not being actively looked for. They were not batting, they were enduring. Still, few batsmen could have negotiated Robiul's yorker but it said something about the Zimbabwean mindset that it took a delivery so outstanding to crack them.

The most promising thing apart from that ball to come out of the morning was Timycen Maruma. The middle-order batsman turned opener was expected to be the first to fall and he almost did in the first over. He went on to resist for 71 minutes against a moving ball.

He left well and showed good temperament and it also took a decent delivery to remove him. Although an earlier appeal against him, also off a Robiul delivery that he went across to defend, looked a slightly better bet, replays showed that the decision to dismiss him was correct.

From there, Zimbabwe could have done what they did in the Caribbean and folded. They could also have shut up shop completely and for a while it looked as though they would.

Hamilton Masakadza continued to show caution was still the default approach and he needed to. The more patience he showed, the more impatient Bangladesh's bowlers became. It was telling that the one who showed the most, Enamul Haque Jr with his constant probing outside the offstump, eventually accounted for Masakadza.

What Zimbabwe then needed was what Taylor brought - the understanding that if they did not keep looking for runs, they would frustrate themselves into making mistakes. Malcolm Waller was the ideal partner to have in that situation. A busy cricketer, Waller ran singles hard and turned strike over well.

The pair also benefited from tiring bowlers and equally tired tactics. In the long serving tradition of Bangladesh cricket, Mushfiqur Rahim was so comfortable with his left-arm spinner, he underused Sohag Gazi. While Enamul, who did find some turn, bowled 29 overs, Gazi, who tempted the batsmen with flight, bowled just 11.

It was a waiting game as it became clear that Bangladesh were holding on for the second new ball. They allowed the game to drift and in that time, Zimbabwe cashed in. Both Taylor and Waller have obviously worked on their technique against spin. They used the sweep shot with more success than they managed in West Indies and ended up with a century stand to show for it.

Bangladesh's banking on the new ball brought reward and could have earned more as the cat and mouse resumed. Again, it became a case of Zimbabwe surviving. Again, there was movement. Again, Zimbabwe needed to concentrate on every ball as though the series itself depended on it. Again, Bangladesh seemed hold the advantage in their hand every time they ran in. But in the end, the willingness to guts it out ensured Zimbabwe finished the day relieved while Bangladesh ended it rueful.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on April 18, 2013, 11:24 GMT

    The team selection was wrong from the start, Elton Chigumbura & Tymcen Maruma are not Test Match Material, Walter the stand in coach had an ideal opportunity to get Raza Butt in as an opener in place of Mawoyo. Keith Dabengwa is far better than Elton. How we miss Taibu?

  • dummy4fb on April 18, 2013, 4:57 GMT

    too much speculations a bit too early. I felt Robiul was fantastic and Taylor's century was very well placed and timed. Overall an exciting first day of cricket.

  • Fast_Track_Bully on April 18, 2013, 4:23 GMT

    This is the quality we can expect from a bottom leveled teams. ZIM has 3 debuts in this test and which shows their lack of interest or inability to play test. Again two tire system is good for test.

  • dummy4fb on April 18, 2013, 0:39 GMT

    I'd still rather watch this than the IPL

  • Fogu on April 17, 2013, 22:42 GMT

    It is not about how many people watched the game? Usually Test matches are not followed as much in the first three days and attendance grows as the match progresses and becomes interesting. This match is intriguing. BD needs to prove to everyone how much they have improved by beating ZM and ZM wants to prove they are a better team than the display in WI. So far BD bowlers have shown they are superior to ZM batsmen except for Taylor and BD fielders have proven they are sub standard. Tomorrow is the real test of ZM resistance and BD killer instinct. Looking forward to this contest tomorrow, Go Tigers!!!

  • Jadejafan on April 17, 2013, 22:36 GMT

    May be a low key series buts it still serves a purpose and will tell us any things about them. I actually thought the first day was a proper test contest from both those teams. Already many of us Indians fans right now have the IPL, we're still glued to any test series including this one.

  • BanglaBandhu on April 17, 2013, 21:26 GMT

    I would agree that the game has been very entertaining and competitive. The writer is correct about quality for some parts of today's play but not all.

    Zim's first three openers were out of their league but Robiul showed quality bowling. Bd fielding was sub-stanstandard just as it was in Sri Lanka. All the talk was before the match was about the lack of BD pace attack. The fielding seems to have been forgotten.

    Once again, I think BD have been on the wrong end of umpire decisions, Just like in Sri Lanka. In my mind Rubel's heel was on the line and Chingubura was OUT.

  • dummy4fb on April 17, 2013, 20:00 GMT

    Saw the highlights a good contest from both both sides pretty entertaining.

  • dummy4fb on April 17, 2013, 18:49 GMT

    Zimbabwe did what they should have done... the players tried to stick around on the pitch... It's a 460 over game... not a T20 where after hitting 2 sixes and thn got out is called entertaining... as a bangladeshi i will hope 2nd day bangladesh will show their growing performance and so will Zimbabwe... and i strongly am not in the favor of the word Minnows... BCCI earns billions of dollars, but still they dont invite bd/zim in their country cause the audience or sponsors wont go there...and ICC has a rule to play every team with each one... bt ICC is actually BCCI... so wht to do... As a fan of Test cricket, loved Zim batting first day... and if BD doesn't choke and carry the last 2-3 series's performances it will b a good contest... May the best Lads win...