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Vermeulen keeps Zimbabwe in the hunt

Close West Indies 481 (Lara 191, Price 5-199) and 13 for 1 lead Zimbabwe 377 (Vermeulen 118, Collymore 4-70) by 117 runs
Scorecard

A gritty maiden Test century from Mark Vermeulen helped Zimbabwe to a fighting total of 337, and kept them in the hunt against West Indies, despite a fine bowling display from Corey Collymore. By the time bad light again brought an early close at Bulawayo, West Indies were on 13 for 1 in their second innings, with a lead of 117.

Vermeulen began the day three away from his highest Test score of 63 and ended up on a determined 118. He batted with concentration and guts throughout his innings, despite the early loss of his overnight partner Craig Wishart, who lost his nerve on the verge of what would have been his second Test century. Wishart fell to Collymore when he aimed across the line to a straight delivery, and was out lbw (185 for 4).

Collymore, who finished with 4 for 70, was by far the pick of the bowlers, but his only fault in an impressive display was the number of no-balls. He knocked Vermeulen's middle stump out of the ground with the best no-ball of the match, but then removed Stuart Matsikenyeri with a magnificent legal delivery which angled in and nipped back to clip the off stump (201 for 5). He gave Tatenda Taibu a torrid time, and only a doubt about the height saved Taibu from departing lbw first ball.

Vermeulen, clearly still suffering from the blow on his thigh against Merv Dillon yesterday, didn't use a runner but was very restrained, scoring only three runs in the first hour. However, he then broke loose with two off-side boundaries off the disappointing Omari Banks, and from then on kept the score moving. He batted in a more restrained fashion than usual, without the freedom to play his usual booming drives through the off-side, but his innings was his most vital ever.

He reached his century after 371 minutes, and with a little good fortune when he hooked Dillon over Ridley Jacobs's head for four, just a yard short of a six. At that stage, both Vermeulen and Taibu were slowly moving Zimbabwe back on track, but the balance of play then changed rapidly.

Collymore struck with very first ball of the afternoon session when Taibu edged a low catch to Chris Gayle at second slip (279 for 6). Heath Streak scored only 3 before he played back, not a good idea on a crumbling pitch, and was trapped lbw by Dillon (289 for 7).

Vermeulen, who had batted with admirable discipline under his handicap, eventually fell like Stuart Carlisle did yesterday to a bizarre dismissal. He was hit on the left pad by Banks, and the ball then squeezed between his legs and hit the stumps. He had scored 118 in 433 minutes off 304 balls.

When Ray Price joined the normally aggressive Andy Blignaut, any attacking strokeplay disappeared from the game. Blignaut was just beginning to show glimpses of his real ability when Collymore returned for a second spell. Like others before him, he played back instead of forward, and was caught lbw on the crease for 31 (336 for 9).

The last pair of Price and Blessing Mahwire then decided attack was the best option. Price damaged Collymore's figures with some strong drives and pulls - including 14 runs off one over. The pair added 41 before Price was out for 35, walking for a bat-pad catch on the leg side to Daren Ganga off Banks.

West Indies began their second innings as the gloom thickened, and they lost Gayle to the first ball of the innings. Streak moved the ball in off the seam to beat Gayle's forward defensive and umpire Rudi Koertzen gave him lbw. Nevertheless, Wavell Hinds and Ganga played freely, but lived dangerously. Ganga edged a ball low between second and third slip, while Hinds drove Streak just short of mid-off.

After three overs of their second innings, the umpires brought the players off for bad light, and they did not reappear. Zimbabwe are still in the game, but they need to bowl West Indies out cheaply on a gradually crumbling pitch if they are going to have any chance of victory.