Zimbabwe continued their fightback on a freezing day in Harare under
increasingly overcast skies with a steady Antarctic wind blowing. They
recorded their highest ever Test Match total before declaring to set West
Indies 348 to win.
Coincidentally, this is exactly the highest fourth-innings score West Indies have ever made to win a Test, which they did by five wickets against New Zealand in 1968/69. When bad light ended play early, West Indies had scored 42 for one, leaving the prospect of an interesting finish on the final day, weather permitting.
Zimbabwe began the day 108 runs ahead of West Indies in their second innings
with six wickets in hand. Hamilton Masakadza added only four runs to his
overnight 115 in almost half an hour before driving a tame catch to short
extra cover off Neil McGarrell. His innings of 119 is the highest by any
player under the age of 18 in Test cricket.
Zimbabwe took a while to adopt the positive approach that had served them so
well the previous day, but Grant Flower and Heath Streak were just beginning
to take control when Flower (14) cut Reon King, who had bowled raggedly, low
to backward point where Shivnarine Chanderpaul took a fine diving catch.
Streak played a responsible innings, hitting the loose ball well and
depositing McGarrell over mid-wicket for a six. With Andy Blignaut generally
restraining himself so as to support Streak, until he hammered three
boundaries off Marlon Black in the last over before the interval, Zimbabwe
A classical cover-driven boundary off Colin Stuart took Streak to his fifty
soon after lunch. Blignaut passed his previous Test highest of 35 and then
hit a six over long-on to reach his fifty off 79 balls. He then tried a
reverse sweep, to be caught by the 'keeper apparently off the glove, but was
given not out by umpire Kevan Barbour.
Blignaut overtook the more responsible Streak, but he too generally showed
good shot selection. Just before the 500 came up, the two all-rounders
broke the previous seventh-wicket record of 131 by Grant Flower and Paul
Strang in Pakistan in 1996/97. The pitch was still good and the West Indian
bowlers did not show the skill necessary to break through against quality
Finally Blignaut, perhaps unnerved by his approaching century, swung wildly
across the line at Stuart, to be bowled for 92 off 118 balls, after a
partnership of 154 with his captain. Zimbabwe were then 521 for seven.
Streak had a narrow escape when a mistimed drive just cleared mid-off, while
Tatenda Taibu hit 10 off nine balls before being yorked by Stuart.
Soon after tea Zimbabwe passed their previous highest Test total of 544 for
four declared, against Pakistan on this ground in their first-ever Test
match victory in 1994/95. Then, when Bryan Strang lobbed a catch to
mid-wicket off McGarrell for 11, Streak declared at 563 for nine, with his
personal score on 79. West Indies were left to make 348 to win, a scenario
they could never have envisaged two days earlier. It was not an impossible
task on a good pitch, but their morale in the field appeared low and they
will need to lift themselves considerably now to save the match.
The injured Daren Ganga bravely came out to open the West Indian innings and
guided the first ball past gully for four. The light, though, continued to
deteriorate under the heavily overcast sky, causing concern to Zimbabwe.
Chris Gayle showed the umpires he was having no problems with visibility, as
he hit two superb successive fours off Blignaut, a drive through extra cover
and a cut. Ganga added only a single to have five when he tried to turn Streak
to leg and skied a catch.
Ramnaresh Sarwan came in for Chanderpaul, who hurt a hand in the field. The
Zimbabwe bowling was steady rather than threatening. With nine overs still
to be bowled, bad light brought an early end to play, with West Indies 42
for one (Gayle 17, Sarwan 11).