July 20, 2001

Zimbabwe get that sinking feeling as West Indies dominate

Heath Streak must have felt a close affinity with the captain of the Titanic as he led the Zimbabwe team on to the field on the morning of the second day. However, his crew baled water manfully throughout most of the day, only to find at the close the water lapping over their decks. West Indies finished with a score of 393 for three, a lead of 238.

Apart from well over 1,000 enthusiastic schoolchildren bussed in on each day of the match, spectators in Bulawayo seemed to be ignoring this match. Perhaps they have had a surfeit of cricket, perhaps they have become disillusioned with all the politics affecting the game, or perhaps they just anticipated the dismal Zimbabwean performance of the first day.

Streak and Bryan Strang bowled with great purpose and accuracy from the start of play, giving Chris Gayle and Daren Ganga very little opportunity for strokeplay, and two close lbw appeals were rejected. West Indies had resumed at 100 for no wicket, and one of the most pleasing aspects of this tour for them has been the development of Ganga and Gayle into a reliable and successful opening partnership. Accurate bowling, though, often directed outside off stump, restricted them to 23 runs in the first hour, with Ganga reaching his fifty.

When Streak and Strang were rested, though, runs began to come a little more freely. But Zimbabwe were far more disciplined than they had been on day one, and it was not until just before lunch that West Indies finally took the lead, without losing a wicket. It was not a morning for highlights, but the main memories were two or three magnificent straight boundaries by Gayle.

Gayle had 96 at lunch, having passed his previous Test highest of 81, and his century came in controversial circumstances. The Zimbabweans were convinced they had him caught at the wicket off Streak when still on 96, confirmed by television, but umpire Riazuddin disagreed; next ball a thick edge ran for four to third man.

Ganga was to be denied a similar landmark, having 89 to his credit off 248 balls when he drove straight back to Raymond Price to be caught and bowled. The partnership had put on 214 runs, equaling the highest ever opening stand against Zimbabwe, by Craig Spearman and Roger Twose of New Zealand at Auckland in 1995/96.

The taking of the second new ball inspired Gayle to his attacking best, 14 runs coming off the first over by Andy Blignaut. Streak too came in for punishment, and West Indies were surging ahead again at tea, with a score of 261 for one.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul (7) fell to the second ball after the interval, flicking a ball from Streak off his toes and Guy Whittall at square leg picked up a superb diving catch. Gayle continued to attack, but finally fell for 175 as he tried to clip a ball through mid-wicket and a leading edge resulted in an easy catch at mid-on. He faced 255 balls and hit 34 fours. It was Gayle's third century in four first-class innings, the other being a 99.

Ramnaresh Sarwan and Carl Hooper now had to consolidate. As he settled in, Hooper began to play some of the superb straight drives so favoured by Gayle. The bowling was generally tight but not dangerous, and Hooper was first to his fifty. He had no intention of playing for the close, greeting the return of Blignaut with two effortlessly driven fours to the off side. The hundred partnership came up, and by the close Hooper had 66, Sarwan 46, and both lived to fight another day.