|Scorecard:||Zimbabwe A v Bangladesh A|
DateLine: 22nd February 2005
Overnight: Bangladesh A 254 and 209/5 off 61 overs (Riyad 37*, Ghosh 19*); Zimbabwe A 188
Lunch: Bangladesh A (2) 232; Zimbabwe A (2) 36/0 off 23 overs, chasing 299 (Duffin 20*, Sibanda 14*)
Tea: Zimbabwe A (2) 123/2 off 50 overs (Ebrahim 14*, Samunderu 2*)
Close: Zimbabwe A (2) 229/6 off 86 overs (Mufambisi 36*, Mahwire 5*)
Against expectations, the first unofficial Test match between Zimbabwe A and Bangladesh A will go into the fourth day, with a possible exciting finish in prospect. Thanks to a late surge by Tafadzwa Mufambisi, the home side need another 71 runs with four wickets left. A fighting innings by Dion Ebrahim kept his team in the hunt after his bowlers had finished off the Bangladesh A second innings quickly.
Steady Bangladesh batting from the start of play seemed to show that the game plan was to carry on batting for as long as possible, with two days left, as would be expected. The emphasis was on steady scoring rather than big hitting. However, things did not go according to plan.
Dhiman Ghosh moved from 19 to 28 before he was beaten by a full-length ball from Graeme Cremer and adjudged lbw by umpire Manny Mhlanga; 219 for six. It was yet another decision that had the batsman standing aghast in his crease, unwilling to depart. Whatever the validity of the umpiring decisions or otherwise, both umpires have certainly appeared very keen to send the batsmen on their way in this match. Perhaps they fancy a few rounds of golf on the scheduled fourth day.
With Mohammad Sharif demoted from number eight to eleven in the second innings as ‘punishment’ for playing a bad shot, Syed Rasel came in next. He did not last long, hitting one boundary before he clipped Cremer hard to midwicket, only for Craig Ervine to leap high to his left and hold on to a brilliant one-handed catch; 227 for seven.
There followed yet another dismissal with what appeared at first to have an element of mystery about it. Mahmud Ullah Riyad (42) slashed at a ball from Mahwire outside the off stump and the fielders all appealed for a catch at the wicket. Umpire Russell Tiffin did not raise his finger but merely nodded, almost imperceptibly; the fielders continued to celebrate and, after staying at the crease for an inordinately long time, Riyad finally decided to walk back to the pavilion; 227 for eight.
Next to go was Enamul Haque (5), who drove Cremer firmly but uppishly, and the bowler dived to take a good low catch to his left; 232 for nine. If Sharif was demoted for playing a silly shot in the first innings, he will no doubt spend the rest of the tour at number 11. He took a wild slash at his very first ball, from Cremer, and skyed an easy catch to mid-off to end the innings at 232.
Cremer had been expensive, but finished with the best figures of four for 75 off 19 overs and three balls, while Mahwire had three for 53. They were the only bowlers used as they wrapped up the last five Bangladeshi wickets for just 23 runs in about 45 minutes.
This left Zimbabwe A 299 to win, the highest total of the match. They made a slow start, as if determined to knuckle down and fight their way home. Terry Duffin almost spoilt it, though, when he had 10, driving at Rasel without moving his feet and edging a thigh-high catch straight to first slip, who dropped it. Vusi Sibanda became stuck with his score on 1, and soon the Bangladeshi fielders were busy putting pressure on the umpires again with numerous raucous appeals.
It took Sibanda 64 minutes to move from 1 to 2! About 20 minutes later he moved to 6 with a cut boundary; he was clearly doing his utmost to build an innings, his major failure in the past, but this was not his natural game. Somehow he needs to blend his natural free strokeplay with the ability to build a major innings.
The going was slow, but the openers, before lunch at least, were simply concerned with staying there and building a rock-solid foundation. 23 overs were bowled in the innings before lunch, and 36 runs scored. But they achieved their aim marvellously.
After lunch the batsmen again began cautiously, but after recording the fifty partnership began to look to score more quickly. Sibanda hit Sharif for two successive quality off-side fours, and runs even began to come off Haque, who suddenly took to bowling no-balls. Was it too good to last?
It was indeed. Sibanda, for all his talent, continued his long-time habit of throwing his wicket away, jumping down the pitch to Haque and being easily stumped. He made 27 of an opening partnership of 77, helping to give his side a good start, but as so often left the job unfinished.
Suddenly the atmosphere changed in the middle. Bangladesh went on the attack, bringing in some close fielders, and even the well-set Duffin now looked to be struggling with his back to the wall. But he set his mind to break the shackles with a couple of well-placed cuts, and Bangladesh were forced to relax the pressure. A straight drive for four, effective rather than elegant or timed, brought him his second fifty of the match.
Dion Ebrahim, out of confidence and battling to keep his international place, struggled but played safe, apart from a mistimed pull that just cleared the square-leg fielder. Just before tea, though, Duffin lost his wicket unnecessarily, another man who didn’t quite finish the job. A little too fond of the sweep, he paddled spinner Tushar Imran round the corner straight to the fielder placed halfway back, and departed for 56, to the great jubilation of the relieved Bangladeshis. Zimbabwe A were 120 for two.
After the interval the war of attrition continued, with Bangladesh now relying more on their spinners. Ebrahim continued on his dour but determined way, causing surprise when he suddenly swung a long hop from Imran over square leg for six. His new partner, Kuda Samunderu, completely subjugated his natural attacking instincts, perhaps playing as he believed best – or had been instructed – for the good of the team, but it is always rather risky to play an unnatural game. On this occasion it did not pay off, at least in terms of runs, as the dreaded digit struck again, umpire Tiffin adjudging him lbw to Hossain for 9 runs off 40 balls. Zimbabwe A were 156 for three.
Sometimes the natural game doesn’t work either. The aggressive Greg Strydom lashed out at his first ball from Hossain, only to yield a hard and low catch straight at backward point Wasseluddin. 156 for two had quickly become 156 for four and the match was again back in the balance.
Craig Ervine was another for whom the defensive game did not work. He scored just 2 runs off 30 deliveries before he pushed out at a ball from Rasel, feet anchored, and was bowled off stump; 168 for five. The match was now in favour of Bangladesh A, and Zimbabwe’s remaining hopes rested largely with their struggling captain, Ebrahim, who had now reached the forties.
Ebrahim was choosing the right delivery to hit, and a lofted off-drive for four finally brought him his fifty, off 138 balls. Tafadzwa Mufambisi began quietly, and then hit a cracking square cut off Sharif for four, following it up with a pull to the boundary in Sharif’s next over. They were weathering the storm well when the second new ball came, and that brought Ebrahim’s invaluable innings – and most of Zimbabwe’s hopes – to an end. Hossain made a ball fly from a length and the batsman was unable to avoid it in time; it flew off his gloves into the slips. Unlike so many Zimbabwean dismissals in this match, this was not a soft one and his 63 was an admirable effort over almost 3½ hours. Zimbabwe were now 203 for six and the third day drawing to a close. Once again more than half an hour’s overtime was needed to make up for the players’ tardy over-rate, with the ICC proving as usual quite incompetent in dealing with such problems.
Mufambisi decided on bold methods now and hit two lofted fours, followed by a pull for six and a straight drive that fell only just short of the boundary off Rasel. He finished the day unbeaten with 36 and was obviously delighted with his efforts. He might feel a little less relaxed on the final morning when it sinks in that the result of the match depends largely on him. The odds must still favour Bangladesh, as Zimbabwe A do not have too much batting left and have to face the sort of pressure that will test their temperament.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 John Ward)
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