Streak leaves his mark on Zimbabwe's young bowlers
Heath Streak is no longer Zimbabwe's bowling coach. Not officially, at least.
After their attack flirted with handing over the advantage on the second evening, Streak, whose contract was not renewed for financial reasons, got on the phone. "I had chat with Brendan Taylor and some of the guys last night and just spoke to them about what had happened," he said. "They were quite excited after getting a decent total, I think, and that showed in the bowling. They really just needed to bowl fuller and straighter."
Kyle Jarvis, Keegan Meth and Shingi Masakadza all became international cricketers under Streak's watch. "They came with a lot of skill already and I worked on the specifics with them," he said. For Jarvis, he concentrated on lengths, for Meth, on swing and Masakadza, consistency. Maybe all they needed was a reminder of those things from the person who taught it to them.
They approached the third morning with a clear idea of what to do - dry up runs, frustrate the batsmen into making mistakes, wait for an opening and then push through. While the plan was working, and they carved up the Bangladesh line-up, Streak was talking to ESPNcricinfo. He grew more pleased by the minute and explained the reasons for the trio's success, which was largely just a case of hard work paying off.
Jarvis has been Zimbabwe's stand-out bowler since their Test comeback. Then, he was raw and talented, now he is more polished. In the words of his captain Brendan Taylor, he is "the one player that has shown excellence" since his debut.
Some of that improvement is down to the work he has put in the nets, and some of it to experience. Jarvis has played in all Zimbabwe's six Tests since August 2011 and has experience from New Zealand's first-class competition. He has a better understanding of his own game and his role as leader of the attack. He still goes wrong, as he did yesterday, when he persisted in pitching it up and so, offered too many driveable deliveries.
This morning, he rectified that. His lengths were better, he forced the batsmen to play and he built pressure. He gave away one run in six overs through stifling lines, he aimed at the body and made clever use of the short ball.
His wickets came after Meth and Masakadza had done the damage but he grabbed hold of the tail in an almost Dale Steyn-esque fashion. He served up the short ball to dislodge Nasir Hossain, a yorker to remove Enamul Haque Jr and another full ball for Rubel Hossain.
Jarvis' skill came because of what Streak said was a "better plan" from the whole attack. "Kyle has been doing a lot of work in terms of angles, depth of the crease and variations. It was nice to see that put into practice," he said.
It was equally rewarding for Streak to see Meth and Masakadza do the same. Neither of them were seen as automatic picks - Ed Rainsford led the first-class wicket-taking charge and Tendai Chatara performed well enough in West Indies to justify keeping his place - but their inclusion proved to be well thought out.
Meth was chosen mostly because he had been swinging the ball well in the lead-up and was in good rhythm. Streak explained that the reason for choosing Masakadza over Chatara was about stamina. "Shingi has always been a wicket-taker but, on occasion, he has been expensive so we worked on that. The concern with Chatara may have been about his later spells, because he tends to tire."
With the ability to extract extra bounce through his height, Masakadza's immediate threat is obvious. Streak hopes with his athletic build and batting promise, he could establish himself in the Zimbabwean Test side going forward. The same could apply to Meth, who quickly adjusted from bowling too wide outside the offstump, to being more attacking. Combined with the movement he was getting, it looked likely Meth would break-through against batsmen who were increasingly unsure against the moving ball.
When he did, it was in the midst of a marathon spell of 13 overs and when he was replaced, he looked as though he could keep going. Meth's strength, both physical and mental, has always stood out for Streak and today it was on display for all to see. "I used to try and get more pace out of Keegan and use his body more because he has broad shoulders," Streak said.
Meth's does not fully extend his arms when delivering the ball though, but it is deliberate. "He was worried about losing his swing and I can understand that because he has the extraordinary skill to move the ball both ways. He always felt he needed an opportunity and he hasn't had that many to play for Zimbabwe. He felt that when he got one, he would do well," Streak said.
Meth made enough of an impression to show he deserved his chance by creating so many opportunities in the field. Twice, he got Mohammed Ashraful to top-edge to gully as he failed to adjust to the short ball in time to get his shot away; both times, the fielder was too deep to take the catch.
Zimbabwe need a bowling coach for spotting things like that and to get the best out of their personnel. "Small things I guess, but I noticed when I was watching this morning," Streak said. "If I'd been there, I would have had a word about it. I don't mean to talk myself up but I've got the experience of coaching, captaining at different levels, international and county, and I feel like I can impart something."
Had the group Streak nurtured not produced such results, he may sound like nothing more than self-promoter but watching them suggests he made some difference. He has not been able to do that since March 31, when his contract expired and was not renewed.
ZC have offered Streak a consultancy role but they cannot guarantee him a set number of working days or specific pay, which has forced him to stay out of the preparations for this series. Finances permitting at his franchise in Bulawayo, the Tuskers, he will continue to coach there. If not, he will be lost to Zimbabwean cricket and will be forced to find opportunities elsewhere.
When that happens, he will probably not be available to answer questions on the phone. That will leave more than just the trio playing in this match without their mentor. Brian Vitori and Tendai Chatara, who are in the squad, have also been groomed by Streak, as has the uncapped Michael Chinouya. Streak does not claim to have discovered them, just that he was part of the drive to tap into and develop Zimbabwe's seam bowling resources.
What they gained because of Streak's efforts was seven quicks to choose from for this series, had Chris Mpofu not been injured. A few years ago, that would have been nothing but a dream. Without a bowling coach, the thought of having many more may dissipate into exactly that.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent