Brandon Moyo, Sports Reporter
GARY Ballance notched up a century on his debut appearance for Zimbabwe in Test cricket as he and Brandon Mavuta put up a great partnership to bring the Chevrons back into contention on day four of the first five-day contest against West Indies at Queens Sports Club yesterday.
After West Indies posted 447-6 (declared) in the first innings, Zimbabwe also made a bold move of declaring their first innings on 379-9 while trailing by 68 runs to give the Windies a second go with the bat.
At the close of play last night, West Indies were on 21 without loss, leading by 89 runs as the match is headed for an interesting final day.
Ballance and Mavuta combined for a 135 runs partnership for the eighth wicket.
Ballance scored his maiden Test ton for Zimbabwe with 137 runs not out while Mavuta continued his Logan Cup form with 56 runs as Zimbabwe fought back after a slow start to save the match.
Returning to his country of birth after he scored four centuries for England, Ballance became only the second player after Kepler Wessels to score a century for two different countries. Apart from that, Ballance has also joined an elite company of Zimbabwean cricketers who scored Test centuries on debut.
Dave Houghton, now Zinbabwe’s coach, as well Hamilton Masakadza are the only other two batters to have achieved that feat.
However, the 137 runs not out by Ballance now holds the record for the highest score on debut as Houghton scored 121 and Masakadza made 119 runs.
Mavuta came in to bat with the Chevrons on 192-7 and left the crease with the home side on 327-8 as he brought up his maiden Test half century and helped Zimbabwe avoid a follow on and send in the Windies to bat again.
Mavuta, coming into the middle, looked unsettled against the pace of Alzarri Joseph. He survived a run out before he was dropped by Jason Holder. Once Mavuta got into his stride, he started playing some glorious strokes.
With Ballance and Mavuta in the middle, Zimbabwe soon avoided the follow-on and the duo started getting the boundaries. Mavuta notched up his maiden Test half-century and soon after, Ballance became just the second batter to score a Test century for two countries. Ballance got to his hundred with a six.
Another debutant, Innocent Kaia scored a half century falling on 67 runs in the first session of day four after having an overnight score of 59 runs. Wellington Masakadza, Victor Nyauchi and Richard Ngarava scored 15, 13 and 19 runs not out to help Zimbabwe close down the deficit.
Ballance said representing and scoring his maiden ton for Zimbabwe is a great feeling and has had a great time since his return to the country of his birth.
“I can’t describe how proud I am to firstly represent Zimbabwe and then to score a hundred, there is just no feeling better than that, I am so glad to be back here and I have had a great month and a half in terms of being involved in the team, the guys have been so welcoming and to contribute and score runs and get us into a good position is a great feeling and I am very proud to be representing Zimbabwe,” he said.
Having scored a Test century before for England, Ballance added that every innings is different and every time he scores a century it’s a different feeling and his ton for the Chevrons is an achievement plus pride.
Losing partners on the other end, Ballance took a huge role to try and lead the team forward through difficult situations and was impressed with the way the lower order batted throughout their time in the middle.
“West Indies bowled well this morning (yesterday) they got a few early wickets so I knew we were just going to stick in and try and build a partnership and firstly Wellington batted nicely, spent some time at the crease which allowed me to play a bit more freely.
“When he got out, Brandon (Mavuta) came in and he played well, I could sit on the other end and watch him play his shots, he was timing the ball beautifully and he made a very good 50 and our partnership was important getting us to the total and giving us an opportunity to bowl this evening (yesterday),” he said.
Ballance also became the second player to play international cricket for Zimbabwe having represented another country before with the first one being Egypt born spinner John Traicos. He also became the 16th player in the history of cricket to play for a different country.
After declaring whilst trailing, Ballance believes it was a positive move that shows Zimbabwe’s intent of trying to go for a win in the final day of an exciting Test cricket match.
“It’s a positive move, it’s a positive declaration, it’s trying to put us on the front foot and try and go for a win, obviously it’s going to be very hard to do that but by declaring about 70 runs behind we are trying to give ourselves a chance to take a few wickets this evening (yesterday) but unfortunately we did not do that tonight but we bowled well but it’s a positive step and that’s the way the coaches want us to play to be positive,” he said.
The two sides will take to the field on the today in what promises to be an interesting final day of Test cricket. [email protected]_malvin