Zimbabwe 169 for 4 (Masakadza 101*, Moor 52, Roach 2-24) v West Indies
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Hamilton Masakadza's fifth Test century carried Zimbabwe back into the match on a rainy first day at Queens Sports Club. Masakadza shared a 142-run partnership with PJ Moor to help the hosts recover from the depths of 14 for 3, Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel having scythed through the top order under gunmetal grey skies after Graeme Cremer had opted to bat. Moor fell for 52, but Masakadza was unbeaten and unbowed on 101 when rain brought the day to a premature end after tea.
As is often his wont, and possibly as an effect of the unseasonal cold that has descended on Bulawayo, Masakadza took some time to get going this morning. He did not score until his 17th delivery, and then did so in trademark style: thrashing a full ball through the covers with a solid crunch.
At 34, Masakadza is the senior statesman of the side and he displayed the class and patience befitting his position. His knock wasn't perfect, but he did enough to survive the edges and misses and was also granted the odd slice of luck. An edge off Roach fell short of the wicketkeeper, and a Gabriel no-ball granted a further reprieve.
Beaten by the pace of a bouncer in the 11th over, Masakadza seemed to have inside edged a pull onto his own shoulder, the rebound being caught at gully. Umpire Simon Fry turned down the appeal, West Indies reviewed and Masakadza started walking off. But Gabriel had overstepped, and the no-ball allowed Masakadza to bat on. The opener remained particularly fluent through the covers.
He found an obdurate partner in Moor, and gradually they helped Zimbabwe restore parity, the score creeping past 50 in the 21st over. Other teams have tested Moor with the short ball, and though the West Indies certainly have the personnel to do so their main line of attack was outside the off stump. Moor had the gumption to pick which ball to leave, and which to hit, and his patience barely faltered: his first boundary was a rasping cut off Holder in the 18th over, his second came more than 28 overs later and was no less well executed.
At the other end, Masakadza continued to gain momentum, passing fifty from 96 deliveries. He celebrated that milestone with his first six of the day, rocking back to thump a Bishoo long-hop over deep midwicket. Gabriel was driven whenever he overpitched, while the introduction of Roston Chase was greeted with yet another crunching drive. The same bowler was dispatched over midwicket for Masakadza's second six, the shot taking him past 2000 Test runs for Zimbabwe.
Moor reached a dogged fifty, from 148 deliveries soon after tea, and Masakadza then brought up his own milestone with a confident drive down to long-on in the 60th over, just before the rain arrived. This was Masakadza's fifth Test century, and his first since 2014.
His runs were sorely needed by Zimbabwe. In polar conditions this morning, Gabriel and Roach had cut the hosts' top order down to 14 for 3. The temperature was up to 38 degrees earlier this week, but plummeted ahead of this game and there were hands in pockets for the slips in the very cold weather. They stayed there for much of the morning with the sun nowhere to be seen, but Zimbabwe's feet were even more leaden in the cold, and the opening stand lasted just four overs.
Roach used the angle of his delivery stride and a touch of seam and swing to masterful effect to remove Solomon Mire, while the dismissal of Craig Ervine resulted more from fast bowling brawn than brain. Coming round the wicket from the Airport End, Gabriel speared a length delivery at the left-hander's middle stump, beating him for pace. Such was the speed of the delivery the stump snapped in half, and Zimbabwe were 11 for 2.
West Indies smelled blood, and Roach had three slips and a gully for the incoming Brendan Taylor. In the event, he needed no fielders at all as his testing lines and cunning changes of angle soon paid dividends. Neither forward nor back, and unsure whether to even play at a delivery whipping through the channel outside off, Taylor succeeded only in deflecting the ball onto his own stumps to leave Zimbabwe reeling at 14 for 3.
West Indies might have had a fourth wicket in the first hour, but Gabriel's front foot boo-boo gave Masakadza a second life. So far, he has made excellent use of it.
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town