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Lara stars but Zimbabwe refuse to roll over

CloseZimbabwe 173 for 3 (Vermeulen 60*, Wishart 86*) trail West Indies 481 (Lara 191, Price 5-199) by 308 runs
Scorecard

In another enthralling day at Bulawayo, Brian Lara dominated the early exchanges with a brilliant 191 and passed Sir Vivian Richards as the leading West Indian Test runscorer along the way. But Zimbabwe, led by Craig Wishart, fought back impressively from 31 for 3 to reach 173 for the loss of no more wickets at the close, by which time they were 308 behind West Indies' imposing total of 481.

Lara dominated the day right from the start, as he raced to a breathtaking hundred. He and Ramnaresh Sarwan began with ease, picking up the singles easily, until Lara decided enough was enough as he sped through the nineties. Blessing Mahwire pinned him down briefly on 98, beating him outside off stump and forcing a few hurried strokes. But it only delayed the inevitable, and Lara soon notched his 22nd Test century off 124 balls.

He made it a deliberate policy to score his runs straighter than usual. He produced a number of superb drives between mid-on and mid-off, including one remarkable six off Raymond Price when he made a last-second adjustment and removed his bottom hand from the bat. Every now and then Lara showed he was human, his closest escape coming at 136 when he edged a ball low between first and second slip. The records came as well. A majestic drive through extra cover off Price took him past the 107 he needed to overtake Richards as the top West Indian runscorer in Tests.

His partners proved more fallible, though. Sarwan scored 65 before a bat-pad resulted in a close catch to Mark Vermeulen at silly point off Price (351 for 4). Shivnarine Chanderpaul was unlucky when Wishart took a brilliant diving catch at slip, and he was given out by umpire Rudi Koertzen even though the TV replay showed that the ball only hit the pad (389 for 5).

After Ridley Jacobs and Omari Banks fell cheaply, Lara was left with the tail, and he decided to step up the assault. He hit Price for two magnificent sixes off successive balls, one of them a superb stroke over extra cover, but he was eventually out not long after lunch. Wishart had been placed as a solitary second slip to block Lara's glide to third man, which he tried again off Andy Blignaut only to edge a low catch (449 for 8).

The big wicket of Lara caused Zimbabwe to relax a little too much, as they allowed the last two wickets to add a merry 32 before West Indies were all out for 481. Price finished with 5 for 199, and might have earned a place in the book of obscure records if his last over hadn't produced his only maiden - how many bowlers in Test history have bowled 43 overs without a single maiden? He bowled well with bounce and lift on a pitch starting to crumble, and despite the obvious aim of the batsmen to hit him out of the attack.

Zimbabwe's openers again made a poor start. First Vusi Sibanda tried to turn a straight one from Edwards to the leg side, and got a leading edge to provide a simple return catch (5 for 1). Edwards then produced an accidental beamer which hit Trevor Gripper on the hand as he defended his throat. He took about five minutes to compose himself afterwards, and that is the only excuse that can be offered for the awful stroke he played in the next over. He tried to pull a ball from Merv Dillon that was not short enough, and dragged it onto his stumps from outside off (10 for 2).

To bad cricket, add the bad luck that has also dogged Zimbabwe. Stuart Carlisle was comfortable at the crease before he played back to Edwards. The ball came off the inside edge, hit Carlisle's thigh-pad, dropped to the ground and then freakishly bounced back onto the stumps (31 for 3).

Zimbabwe were in deep trouble, but Wishart and Vermeulen clawed them back on track and batted throughout the evening session. Vermeulen was forced to use a runner after edging a ball from Dillon painfully into his thigh, a blow which restricted his strokeplay. It was determined batting against accurate rather than threatening bowling, with Dillon the most economical performer. Banks, in contrast, was rather rusty - but he was bowling for the first time on the tour. He wasn't helped by Lara's numerous bowling changes, which prevented the attack from settling down.

Wishart grew in stature and confidence, passing his usual danger area when approaching his half-century, and he even speeded up towards the close as he neared three figures. It was quality batting, mentally as well as technically, and Wishart, on 86 not out, will contemplate overnight the possibility of his first Test century against a senior team tomorrow, having already scored one against Bangladesh.