Blignaut's hat-trick puts Zimbabwe close to victory

Zimbabwe 441 and 242 for 8 dec (Taibu 58, Ervine 74) lead Bangladesh 331 (Ashraful 98, Streak 4-44) and 24 for 5 (Blignaut 3 for 12) by 327 runs

A hat-trick from Zimbabwe's Andy Blignaut left Bangladesh reeling on the fourth evening at Harare. By the close they were staring at their 26th defeat in 27 Tests, despite totalling a handy 331 in their first innings, which finished earlier in the day.

Blignaut warmed up for his bowling stint with a rapid 32, including a huge six over long-on, which ushered Zimbabwe to 242 for 8 - and a lead of 352 - before a declaration. Douglas Hondo punched the first holes in Bangladesh's innings, trapping Shahriar Hossain (1) and Habibul Bashar (0) lbw.

And then up stepped Blignaut for his second over, with Bangladesh already in some strife at 14 for 2. His third ball swung in to Hannan Sarkar and pinned him right in front for 10. In came Mohammad Ashraful, whose perky 98 had enlivened Bangladesh's first innings: but this time he squirted his first ball to gully, where the substitute Travis Friend took the catch. Blignaut produced a fine delivery for the vital ball, swinging it in to Mushfiqur Rahman, who could only manage a thin-edge through to Tatenda Taibu. It was the first hat-trick by a Zimbabwean in a Test.

Bangladesh made it to the close without further loss, by which time they had limped to 21 for 5, but unless the weather intervenes they will be contemplating yet another Test defeat early tomorrow morning.

Earlier Zimbabwe had made a sticky start, losing Trevor Gripper caught behind for 5 in the sixth over. Dion Ebrahim and Stuart Carlisle then dug in, raising the 50 before Ebrahim was caught by Sarkar off Tapash Baisya for a 68-ball 31. Four runs later Grant Flower was gone too, ticking Tapash through to Khaled Mashud for 3, and when Carlisle was run out by Sarkar's direct hit from short midwicket in the 34th over, Zimbabwe were struggling a little at 90 for 4.

But that was as good as it got for Bangladesh. Thanks mainly to an enterprising fifth-wicket partnership of 90 between Taibu, who faced 107 balls for his 58, and Sean Ervine, who cracked 74 from 78 balls, Zimbabwe eventually motored to 242. Both batsmen hit eight fours.

Heath Streak's declaration left Bangladesh needing an unlikely 353 for victory in around 104 overs. But any optimists among the touring party were swiftly shot down by Blignaut's hat-trick heroics.