The three-day first-class friendly match between Zimbabwe A and the West Indian tourists at Kwekwe Sports Club ended in a tame draw, as the tourists concentrated on batting practice. Three of their batsmen came close to scoring centuries, only to fall at the final hurdle, but they did provide good light entertainment for a small weekday crowd, mainly comprising schoolchildren.
The West Indians began the day 57 runs ahead with all their second-innings wickets standing. Daren Ganga and Chris Gayle found no fears in the pitch or the bowling and it came as a surprise when, after twenty minutes' play, Ganga (19) came down late on a full-length delivery from Travis Friend and played the ball on to his stumps to end an opening stand of 48.
Gayle continued to bat with great fluency, contemptuously pulling anything short to the boundary with time to spare. He reached his fifty with a huge six over the sightscreen at long-on off the out-of-form Mluleki Nkala, and hit another next ball. Bryan Strang was still absent with an injured hand, a memento of his fifty the previous day - he expects to be fit if selected for the First Test - so the home side had a seriously depleted attack.
Gayle continued his onslaught until he reached the eighties, whereupon he slowed down in anticipation of his second century of the match and third in succession. Chanderpaul (17) was out to a sharp return catch by Barney Rogers, while Gayle, completely changing his game, crawled to 99 and was then out to a low catch at short extra cover off Rogers, failing to reach a memorable achievement by just one run.
Ramnaresh Sarwan enjoyed a brisk innings of 43 before being caught at short leg off the occasional left-arm spin of Gavin Rennie. Then Marlon Samuels and Carl Hooper, with some good clean straight hitting, knocked the spinners out of the attack. Hooper raced to his 50 off 39 balls, reaching the landmark with a fierce lofted drive for four over extra cover. Samuels, overshadowed for a while, later blossomed to match his captain, and both batsmen looked set for centuries when a mix-up led to Samuels being run out by Raymond Price for 84. The fifth-wicket partnership was worth 175.
Hooper too fell frustratingly short, also run out, for 95 while attempting a quick single to Hamilton Masakadza at short fine leg for the benefit of Neil McGarrell on the stroke of tea. West Indies, clearly more intent on batting practice than the possibility of victory, were 370 for six at tea and batted on afterwards. As Ridley Jacobs was down with flu, they were probably not too keen to field anyway, but experience so far on this tour suggested that the tail, boasting Colin Stuart at number nine, were not likely to pay more than a flying visit.
This time they did hang around for longer than usual, almost an hour, perhaps under instructions to see if they could prevent the West Indians from having to take the field again. The final total was 395, 424 ahead, with Jacobs absent ill, and a maximum of 21 overs left for play. Gayle kept wicket as Zimbabwe A scored 55 without loss before the match was called off.