thrilling test match
By Ranil Abeynayake
Should the last pair be batting to save a test match in the final
overs of the fifth day, it must go down as a game of classic cricket.
The final session of the West Indies - Zimbabwe game concluded recently
in Harare, was fairy tale stuff.
A total of
1349 runs were scored over the five days. That averaged around two
hundred and seventy runs per day. In all thirty five batsmen were
dismissed in the game. It was a contest where a gruelling battle
between bat and ball took place.
were the fancied team. They came in for a major shock. It is never
easy to perform in foreign conditions and different surfaces without
spending sufficient time out in the middle. That was evident in
the manner in which the West Indians played on the opening day.
They got amongst
the wickets early making use of the moisture and greenness of the
new pitch. Mid way through the day they had got into the West Indian
Then the fight back began and the fielders heads began to drop.
Always the body language tells the story. Good teams always keep
coming up with different ideas, bowling variations, field placing
changes, that makes it compulsory for the batsmen to be thinking
all the time.
Teams on the
other side of the fence simply wait for things to happen. They go
through the motions more with hope then with conviction that they
will dismiss the opposition. It happens at all levels of the game.
Then the game gradually slips away.
So it happened, as the Zimbabwe lower middle order gradually began
to wrest the initiative. Their captain Heath Streak led the way
to notch his first ton. Once he got going, the stroke play was a
treat. The pitch was at its best on day two and the ball kept racing
to all parts of the park.
So far in this
series the Zimbabweans have been pretty impressive. Batsmen Taibu,
Matsikenyeri have shown a lot of improvement. Left arm spinner Ray
Price has been very accurate, bowling with subtle variations. He
also has the ability to bowl long spells and sustain accuracy. An
indication that he is maturing fast.
Brian Lara did
not have a good game with the bat. He has made amends in the second
test in progress. Back at near his best he stroked a masterly 191
and in the process became the highest scorer of test runs for the
It's the bowling
that should be a worry for the West Indians. There is no one of
genuine pace as in the past. Neither top class seam and swing bowlers.
Spin bowling has never been a strong point since Clive Lloyd took
over as Captain and banking on pace. The Zimbabwean batsmen made
most of straightforward stuff they faced up to and so it was up
to the batsmen to deliver for the Windies.
They were fortunate
that the home team delayed the declaration. 300 runs should have
been an adequate target. In the end the last pair held on for nearly
a dozen overs to force a draw. Perhaps the most appropriate result,
although Zimbabwe set the pace for most of the game.
It was not the
most significant of test matches but it produced a very absorbing
game of cricket. Well worth writing about. Whilst the players deserve
the credit for the performances the groundsmen must not be forgotten.
They produced a pitch, which had all the requirements for a five-day