At times, there is a kind of moral victory in a defeat and a team have a lot of positives to take from it. Although there wasn’t any kind of moral victory for Zimbabwe, who lost the series opener by 117-run, but they certainly have a lot of positives to take from the Bulawayo encounter. They are certainly heading in the right direction and the road looks promising. And this is the start, the base, the foundation, or the making of a competitive side.
West Indies have started to find form as a unit and was always going to pose a challenge for Zimbabwe. But, the hosts did well in putting up a fight. Zimbabwe had an outside chance to emerge victorious against the rebuilding Caribbean side, but a bad day in office cost them dearly. Let’s take a look at how things fared in the Test and what positives Zimbabwe have to take from this encounter.
In the first innings, barring Shai Hope and Kieran Powell none of the West Indies batsmen managed to get going. Cremer and Williams combined really well to account for seven wickets between them and were well supported by others to dismantle the visitors for 219. With the ball spinning from Day 1, Devendra Bishoo was always going to pose a massive threat.
Zimbabwe took 7 wickets in one session to stun West Indies on Day 1 of the first Test #ZIMvWI
Report: https://t.co/z4VNSfKCCJ pic.twitter.com/8iHzppHSbx
— ICC (@ICC) October 21, 2017
Zimbabwe got a steady start and looked good to achieve a lead after being well placed at 91 for 1, but a dramatic batting collapse saw them being bowled out for 159. Barring the top three, none of the Zimbabwean batsmen crossed the 20-run mark. Bishoo was the wrecker-in-chief as West Indies gained a healthy 60-run lead from the first innings.
West Indies bounced back hard with the bat in the second innings, piling 373 runs on the board and set a target of 434. Zimbabwean openers accepted the challenge and laid the foundation with a solid 99-run stand at the top, but the road was still very far. Brendan Taylor failed to fire in the first innings, but an inspiring determination in the second will probably infuse plethora of confidence. But once again there was nothing of substance from most of the middle-order batsmen.
Zimbabwe struggled to find any rhythm last year but left everyone bewildered when they almost beat Sri Lanka in a one-off Test in their own den. That confidence was still visible in this game and will look to bounce back in the second Test. Talking about bowling, Zimbabwe managed to pick all 20 West Indies wickets in this encounter, which is extremely rare.
Zimbabwe paid heavily for not capitalising in the first innings. Most of the batsmen gifted their wicket away by playing some loose and unnecessary strokes. But, it would be cruel to blame them solely for this. Since 2014, Zimbabwe have only played nine Tests, which clearly speaks about the lack of experience in this format. This failure was nothing, but an indication of what lack of Test experience can do. Nevertheless, they did extremely well to put up a fight in the second innings.
Zimbabwe can look forward to a promising future as they have a number of series scheduled in the near future and a potent side. Bangladesh were once hailed as ‘minnows’ in the Test arena, but they played some top sides in last two years at home and put up a solid fight in whatever way they could have and did well. This is what playing against top sides on a regular basis could do.
ZImbabwe captain @GraemeCremer was pleased with the balance of his side despite falling to a 117 run defeat in Bulawayo #ZIMvWI pic.twitter.com/0S6xivRheo
— ICC (@ICC) October 24, 2017
Zimbabwe will be playing against South Africa after which, they will lock horns with Afghanistan, Pakistan and again with the Proteas. One can expect this potent side to bloom after the completion of these four series.
For now, Solomon Mire showed nerves of steel in both the innings, especially in the second and embraced Test cricket emphatically. Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel bowled with fire and produced some serious pace, but Mire did well in bidding his time at the crease and getting his team a solid start in the second after failing to convert in the first while Hamilton Masakadza showed consistency.
Kyle Jarvis showed good discipline with the ball on his international return and squeezed runs in both the innings. He got an early breakthrough in the first innings while had two scalps in the second. More importantly, his comeback has added some much-needed flavour to the Zimbabwean pace attack.
Sean Williams was outstanding as a part-time bowler in both the innings, chipping six wickets in the game. He complimented well with Graeme Cremer and made good use of the conditions. Cremer, on the other hand, led the side with an example. He was outstanding in picking four wickets in the first innings and returned with similar results in the second. He finished the match with eight wickets to his name. Chris Mpofu showed signs off improvement and as a unit, Zimbabwe’s bowling attack inspires confidence and will look to put up a solid show in the second game.