West Indians 404 for 5 dec (Ganga 110, Chanderpaul 102 ret) lead Zimbabwe A 31 for 0 by 373 runs
Two contrasting centuries were the highlight of the first day's play between Zimbabwe A and the touring West Indians at the Takashinga Sports Club in Harare. Shivnarine Chanderpaul hit a dashing hundred before retiring, while Daren Ganga's century was more studious. They enabled the tourists to declare at 404 for 5, and by stumps, Zimbabwe A had reached 31 for 0.
For the first time, Zimbabwe cricket "went to the people", playing a major match in the densely populated suburbs. The new Takashinga ground is situated in Highfield, an area that has spawned the likes of Tatenda Taibu, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri and Vusimuzi Sibanda. Although strictly speaking it is not yet really suitable for first-class matches, it brought a taste of top-class cricket to the heartland of the black population in Harare. Around a thousand people attended, most of them school children who, because of the fuel shortage, would have been unable to get to another venue. It was a pity that Brian Lara decided not to play, with Ramnaresh Sarwan taking over the captaincy.
During an extended lunch interval, the ground was officially opened, with many dignitaries in attendance. The pitch was very dry and, with a number of cracks and only sparse grass covering, looked likely to break up as the match progressed. A recently laid pitch, it has not yet had time to settle and so was not always easy to bat on.
Zimbabwe A had early success when Travis Friend, who is bowling his way back into form, produced a vicious lifter that had Wavell Hinds (5) fending off his body to the slips with the shoulder of his bat (8 for 1). Unfortunately this got the home side a little overexcited, and for a while they indulged in ridiculous appeals for just about anything.
The batsmen looked quite insecure to start with, perhaps not yet acclimatised, but Chris Gayle was soon playing his trademark powerful drives to deliveries even remotely overpitched. He has always had a liking for Zimbabwean bowling and was looking set for a big score when Jordane Nicolle had him fishing at a ball outside off stump and wicketkeeper Alester Maregwede took a fine diving catch (55 for 2). He made 25.
Three chances went down during the morning, none of them easy, but had they been held the tourists would have been in some trouble. Ramnaresh Sarwan never looked comfortable, making 17 before he wa sbowled by a shooter from Nicolle (93 for 3).
Chanderpaul, in contrast to his team-mates, looked at ease soon and took heavy toll of anything short with effortless pulls to the boundary. Ganga was more modest but accumulated quietly. Elton Chigumbura at this stage was the most impressive bowler, accurate and conceding just 12 runs in nine overs before lunch; he was much less successful later. After the extended break, Friend was removed from the attack by umpire Tapfumaneyi after bowling two unintentional beamers.
Ganga and Chanderpaul piled on the runs during the afternoon session, with Chanderpaul overtaking his partner and reaching his century off 100 balls. Chanderpaul reached 102 with his 22nd four and had also hit a six; the other eight runs came in singles. On a quick outfield, most shots that beat the inner ring reached the boundary, which Dion Ebrahim often did not guard as well as he could have. Chanderpaul then decided to retire, with Ganga on 99 (266 for 4).
Ganga reached his century in the next over, off 173 balls, but soon afterwards was caught behind off the occasional offspinner Matsikenyeri (278 for 5). Ganga hit 20 fours in his 110, again a high proportion that could have been cut down with more astute field placing.
After tea, Marlon Samuels and Ridley Jacobs enjoyed some batting practice. Samuels was first to 50, and when Jacobs reached his with two sixes in three balls, Chanderpaul declared.
Jerome Taylor and Ravi Rampaul are both bowlers of genuine pace, and they produced some testing deliveries for Ebrahim and Sibanda to face before the close. To their credit, they handled it very well and finished unbeaten at the close.