Lara and Hinds give West Indies the upper hand

West Indies 282 for 3 (Hinds 82, Lara 77*) v Zimbabwe

A dazzling innings from Brian Lara put the Zimbabwe bowling to the sword and established West Indies' dominance on the shortened first day of the second Test of this short series, at Queen's Sports Club in Bulawayo.
Unbeaten on 77 at the close, by which time his team had amassed 282 for 3, Lara had raced to 50 in just 53 balls, excelling particularly in the cut, the sweep and the slash through the covers. His thrilling strokeplay enraptured a chanting crowd, and regained control of the match after Zimbabwe had fought back in the early afternoon.

Earlier, Chris Gayle had been the beacon. Right from the start the clear West Indian aim seemed to be to shatter the always-fragile confidence of the Zimbabwean players. Heath Streak and Andy Blignaut did not bowl particularly badly, but Gayle was determined to hammer anything off line, and West Indies got off to a flyer, reaching 41 after only seven overs.

Streak maintained his attacking field, with the bowlers getting a little seam movement and beating the bat now and then, which also encouraged a high scoring rate. Twice the Zimbabweans thought they had Gayle, once with an lbw shout off Streak and once with a catch at the wicket. But Simon Taufel, the umpire, made two excellent decisions, the replays showing that in the first case the ball pitched just outside leg (Streak was coming over the wicket to the left-hander), and in the second the ball flicked the pad, not the bat.

Gayle played some lovely straight-drives, forcing bowler Blignaut and umpire Rudi Koertzen in turn to duck for their lives. But Gayle was the first to go, after scoring 47 from 72 balls, after Blignaut decided to bowl round the wicket to him. Perhaps the different angle deceived him, as he hung out his bat rather weakly outside the off stump and edged a catch through to Tatenda Taibu.

Wavell Hinds, who had been batting more quietly than his flamboyant opening partner, might have been expected to consolidate, but instead he stepped up a gear and hit Raymond Price for a big six over long-on. The overall hundred came up in the 26th over just before lunch.

After lunch the tempo continued to increase. Twelve came off the first over afterwards, bowled by Price - a quick single by Daren Ganga attracted a wild four overthrows from Blignaut, then Hinds hit the third ball over long-off for six to reach his half-century.

The batsmen were clearly determined to attack Price, in particular, and were successful in stopping him from exercising the control that he showed at Harare. But, just as they were causing real consternation among the Zimbabweans, Ganga (23) swept at Price but skyed a catch to deepish square leg (146 for 2). Then, in Price's next over, Hinds leapt down the pitch to try to hit him for a third six and was easily stumped for 82 (161 for 3).

Ramnaresh Sarwan was almost out first ball, snicking Price just short of Craig Wishart at slip, but he then settled into the groove as straight man in the Brian Lara Show. As tea approached, he gained in confidence, threatening trouble for Zimbabwe in the final session.

In the event West Indies had a couple of close shaves after tea, with Lara suddenly a little vulnerable - he survived a couple of lbw appeals and played and missed outside off stump. Meanwhile a slash from Sarwan just cleared the slips. But Zimbabwe were unable to enforce any change in fortunes, as the clouds came over, the sky steadily darkened and, within minutes of the umpires taking the players off for bad light, the rain began.

In all only seven overs were possible in the final session, leaving West Indies very well placed and the pressure on Zimbabwe, who did not so much play poorly as fall victim to some typical West Indian flair.