West Indies 256 for 3 (Hinds 127*, Gayle 51) beat Zimbabwe 150 for 7 (Taibu 66*, Edwards 6-22) by 72 runs (D/L)
The real West Indies finally stood up to be counted again as they levelled the five-match series with a 72-run win in a rain-affected match at Harare. Their comfortable win was down to three magnificent individual performances, top of which was Fidel Edwards, who took the best-ever figures by a debutant with 6 for 22. He blew away the top order as Zimbabwe limped to 150 for 7 in their pursuit of 223 from 32 overs.
Edwards produced a deadly display of swing bowling in an inspired spell which destroyed Zimbabwe's chances of winning after only seven overs. With his first ball in one-day cricket, he produced a superb swinging yorker which uprooted the middle stump of Barney Rogers (5 for 1). In his second over, with consecutive deliveries, he had Vusi Sibanda caught by Ridley Jacobs, the wicketkeeper, for 7 and then trapped Craig Wishart lbw (10 for 3). Every ball was potentially lethal and the West Indian team had their tails well and truly up.
Up to this match Zimbabwe had been outclassed, but performed with honour. Now it was back to the bad old days of abject surrender. Mark Vermeulen failed to get behind a rising delivery from Edwards and lobbed a simple catch off the splice to Shivnarine Chanderpaul at gully. Stuart Matsikenyeri then flicked across the line and sent an easy skier to Corey Collymore at mid-on (22 for 5). Edwards's opening spell read an astonishing 5-1-10-5 - not bad for your first game.
When Edwards came off prematurely due to Brian Lara's desire to make sure of completing 25 overs in case of more rain, the pressure gradually lifted, though Streak failed to score his usual rescue innings. Instead, Tatenda Taibu played what developed into a sparkling innings of 66, while Sean Ervine joined him in a carefree bash at the end to make 37 not out. But it was all meaningless after Edwards's dream start.
The other two outstanding performances came from the opening pair of Chris Gayle and Wavell Hinds. Gayle set the pace with an innings of rare power and brilliance, scoring 51 off 34 balls, while Hinds went on to bat through the innings for his highest one-day score of 127 not out.
After Streak put West Indies in, Zimbabwe's front-line seamers, Streak and Andy Blignaut, called the tune at the start of the match, as they swung the ball sharply under a cloudy sky. But the luck went West Indies' way, and Gayle decided to ride it. He began with an amazing six over extra cover off Blignaut, following it next ball with a one-bounce four over long-on. Blignaut lost his cool immediately, the next ball swinging way down the leg side for four wides.
Streak had bowled his first four overs for just four runs, but he too wilted under Gayle's assault, his next two overs conceding 28 runs. Hinds joined in the fun with a six that just cleared the midwicket boundary, but so high that it might well have travelled further vertically than horizontally.
Gayle raced to his fifty off only 30 balls, but then suddenly exchanged his broadsword for the unaccustomed rapier and paid the price. Trying to dab Ervine through the vacant slips, he was brilliantly caught by Taibu for 51. It was the 16th over and West Indies had already amassed 96 for the loss of only one wicket.
Lara came to the crease and as soon as Ray Price came on, Lara looked to target him, hitting him for the longest six of the day over long-on. But in Gary Brent's next over, Lara fell in a similar fashion to Gayle, for 14, trying to dab a ball through the slips and edging an easier catch to Taibu (124 for 2).
Then came a period of consolidation as Ramnaresh Sarwan, needing to impress after three failures, settled in with Hinds. The rate gradually increased as the partnership developed, and Hinds went on to score his fourth one-day hundred off 127 balls as the sky darkened and rain approached.
Sarwan, on 47, holed out to Vermeulen on the cover boundary off Streak (231 for 3), but Hinds continued to step up the pace, ruining Ervine's impressive figures by plundering 17 off his final over. His 127 surpassed his previous one-day best of 125 not out, but the untimely rain prevented an onslaught in the last five overs.
About 90 minutes' play was lost, and when play restarted Zimbabwe's target, according to Duckworth-Lewis, was 223 off 32 overs. That was always going to be tricky, but Edwards soon made it impossible. This result left both teams with all to play for tomorrow, the final day of an excellent series - weather permitting.