Ballance 137*, Mavuta 53 help Zimbabwe fight back before sporting declaration
West Indies openers see off the day and extend their lead to 89
West Indies 447 for 6 dec and 21 for 0 (Brathwaite 11*, Chanderpaul 10*) lead Zimbabwe 379 for 9 dec (Ballance 137*, Kaia 67, Mavuta 53, Joseph 3-75) by 89 runs
Gary Ballance marked his second coming in Tests - this time for Zimbabwe - with a composed and crucial century that helped his team go from being at risk of being made to follow on to a position from where they could declare the innings with the hope of forcing a result. His unbeaten 137, along with a maiden Test fifty from Brandon Mavuta helped Zimbabwe fight back from a perilous position.
Ballance, who played 23 Tests for England and scored four centuries previously, was the rock that held Zimbabwe's innings together after their solid opening stand on the third day. He was largely untroubled, hitting 12 fours and two sixes in his 231-ball innings, as he put on significant partnerships with the lower-order batters, after initially losing partners in quick succession.
Ballance became only the second cricketer after Kepler Wessels to score Test centuries for two countries, and the third to score a century on Test debut for Zimbabwe.
Ballance joined overnight batter Innocent Kaia, who had already reached his half-century on debut, at the start of day four in Bulawayo. But Alzarri Joseph struck twice early in the day to remove Kaia for 67 and Tafadzwa Tsiga for 2.
Kemar Roach pegged them back further when he had Brad Evans edging behind, as Zimbabwe lost three wickets for 19 runs.
Ballance then put on 45 runs with Wellington Masakadza, but the latter lofted a catch to mid-off trying to play an unnecessary stroke just before lunch.
At this point, Zimbabwe still needed 56 runs to avoid the follow-on, with just three wickets in hand. West Indies, with the second new ball due after another 15 balls, had their tails up.
But Ballance and Mavuta walked out after lunch and dominated the second session. The two added 121 runs in the session to help Zimbabwe get into a position from where it would be difficult to lose the game.
Mavuta, coming into the match with two half-centuries in his last two first class games, started off tentatively and was troubled by Joseph's pace early on. He survived a run-out scare after a mix-up with Ballance, spared only because Roston Chase had fumbled the ball at short third.
Mavuta was gifted another life when Jason Holder shelled a dolly at mid-off when he miscued a lofted shot off Gudakesh Motie. But soon, he found his bearings and thrashed out a couple of gorgeous drives through cover. He was resolute in defence and put away the bad deliveries with regularity, allowing Ballance to play at his tempo without the pressure of having to farm strike or score quickly.
Mavuta, who recorded his maiden five-wicket haul in the Test, brought up his half-century with a drive to sweeper cover in the final session of the day. He was solid in defence after that, but did not take many risks until a short ball from Holder stayed low to clatter into his stumps.
Mavuta contributed 53 runs to the 135 that he added with Ballance for the eighth wicket.
Zimbabwe decided then that it was no use hanging about and took the aggressive route. Victor Nyauchi hit a first-ball four through covers and thrashed another cover drive and a cut through point before top-edging a pull to Joshua Da Silva off Holder.
Ballance also brought out the slog-sweep with more regularity, and was even dropped at deep midwicket, while Richard Ngarava, Zimbabwe's No. 11, hit a couple of gorgeous lofted straight drives - for a four and a six.
Zimbabwe were still trailing by 68 when they declared, giving the bowlers 13 overs in the day to have a go at West Indies' top order.
But Kraigg Brathwaite and Tagenarine Chanderpaul, fresh from recording West Indies' highest-ever opening stand, were once again stoic at the crease, and saw the day out without any damage to finish the day with a lead of 89.