Mehluli Sibanda, Sports Editor
ZIMBABWE survived a late onslaught from West Indies to escape with a draw on the final day of the first Test cricket match at Queens Sports Club yesterday.
West Indies, who scored 447/6 declared in their first innings also called time on their second visit to the crease on 203/5 to leave Zimbabwe needing 272 runs in the remaining 49 overs on the last day of the five-day contest. Zimbabwe, who declared their first innings on 379/9 despite having a deficit were on 134/6 in 54 overs at the close of play last night.
Wicketkeeper Tafadzwa Tsiga scored an unbeaten 24 runs off 83 deliveries and his batting partner at the end of the match was Wellington Masakadza who made naught from 36 balls. Chamunorwa Chibhabha top scored for the home team with 31 runs having faced up to 60 deliveries.
Left arm spinner Gudakesh Motie posed all the threat to Zimbabwe securing a draw as he finished with four wickets for 50 runs in 24 overs. The other wickets were taken by off spinner Roston Chase who had 2/9 in 12 overs.
Zimbabwe escaping with a draw was largely due to the rain, which saw only 89 overs being played on the first two days and Gary Balance’s 137 runs not out, the highest by a Zimbabwean batsman on their Test debut, better than the 121 made by Dave Houghton when India were Zimbabwe’s opponents in October 1992 and the 119 by Hamilton Masakadza against West Indies in July 2001.
Brandon Mavuta also played a huge part with bat and bowl. The leg spinner had 5/140, his first ever five-wicket haul in the longer version of the game before he showed that he is also capable with the bat, scoring his maiden Test half century, finishing with 56 runs, the third highest score for Zimbabwe in the first innings after opener Innocent Kaia had 67 in his inaugural Test innings.
Raymon Reifer top scored for the Windies in their second innings and his 107-run third wicket partnership with Jermaine Blackwood who made 57 runs took away any hopes that Zimbabwe might have had of winning the match.
Left arm spinner Masakadza picked up three wickets for 71 runs in 23 overs while pace bowler Bradley Evans had 2/41.
Zimbabwe did not enjoy a great start in their second innings, Tanunurwa Makoni playing a shot too many to perish for nine runs in the fourth over.
Kaia followed in the 18th over for 24. Chibhabha was next and was shortly followed by skipper Craig Ervine. Balance could not repeat his first innings heroics as he departed for 18 runs this time around and Zimbabwe were in all sorts of trouble when Evans went for a seven-ball duck.
Tsiga and Masakadza were however able to hold off any threat posed by the Windies bowling attack.
Tagenarine Chanderpaul, scorer of 207 runs not out in the Windies’ first innings and put up a record 336-run partnership with skipper Kraigg Brathwaite who made 182 walked away with the Player of the Match award.
Both teams will ponder where they could have gone wrong in the first Test as they gear up for the second five-day contest which gets underway at the same venue on Sunday February 12. – @Mdawini_29.