Spinners put Australia A on top
Zimbabwe XI 206 for 6 (Sibanda 91, Krejza 3-24) v Australia A
Zimbabwe XI ground their way to 206 for 6 on an attritional first day against Australia A at the Country Club in Harare. Vusi Sibanda's patient 91 held the Zimbabwean top order together before Australia's spinners struck repeatedly in the afternoon to dent the hosts' gains. Jason Krejza and Michael Beer shared four scalps after the three frontline seamers had been frugal but wicketless.
Sibanda, in charge of the team in the absence of Brendan Taylor, who is out of action after undergoing nasal surgery, put together an opening stand of 117 with Tino Mawoyo, both batsmen digging in with limpet-like tenacity to see off the new ball. The ability to play long innings against quality opposition is a skill that Zimbabwe's budding Test batsmen desperately need to master and survival, rather than dominance, was clearly their goal in the morning as Mawoyo crawled along at less than half of his career first-class strike-rate in a 177-ball 39.
The tactic did work to deny Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle and Trent Copeland any entry to a potentially fragile middle order, and it was not until the 55th over of the day that Beer finally broke the stand, sneaking one past Mawoyo's bat to have him stumped by Tim Paine. Hamilton Masakadza's entry briefly lifted the tempo, but when he was run out for 12 - a fate that befalls Sibanda's partners with worrying frequency - Australia began to chip away at the middle order.
Sibanda gained in fluency and confidence as he neared a century, but fell nine runs short of the mark when he presented Siddle with a catch off the impressive Krejza. Regis Chakabva and Craig Ervine's fourth-wicket partnership was just beginning to show promise when Krejza struck again, bowling Chakabva for a patient 28 shortly after the score had passed 200.
With minutes to go before the close, a couple of quick wickets put Australia firmly on top. Allrounder Keegan Meth fell to Krejza for a duck and Ervine was then prised out by medium-pacer Mitchell Marsh as Zimbabwe XI slipped to 205 for 6. Former national captain Elton Chigumbura and Malcolm Waller held firm until the close but there isn't a great deal of batting to come and the Zimbabweans will hope that Chigumbura can replicate his form from the two-day match at Kwekwe, where he boosted the total with a bellicose 95, as they push for a respectable first-innings total.
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo