Zimbabwe were staring down the barrel at 140 for 4 at stumps on Day 4. They had a lead of mere 18 runs to their name and another disheartening defeat looked on the cards. Their batting had collapsed before and another one looked possible on extremely slow and turning track of Bulawayo. The situation demanded almost a miraculous Day 5 for Zimbabwe to save the day. They haven’t drawn a Test in last 12 years and this was their best chance to script a much-needed record.
The match was brimming with action and the momentum of the game swung from one end to another like a pendulum of a clock. But eventually, both the captains decided to settle for a draw before the start of mandatory overs in the final session.
How often do we see a team saving a Test from such a precarious situation like this? Well, it’s rare, extremely rare. And not many would have anticipated Zimbabwe to script such a remarkable turnaround. Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva and Graeme Cremer fought an awe-inspiring battle and handed Zimbabwe their first Test draw in 12 years. A good start for the rising Zimbabwean side.
Prior to the start of the final day, most of the people would have crystal glazed and see West Indies registering another emphatic win and with it the series. But it wasn’t to be. Their bowlers did well in getting rid of determined Peter Moor and few overs later, Malcolm Waller was undone by Bishoo. Zimbabwe were precariously placed at 172 for 6, when Chakabva walked in. Raza fought his way hard and did well to build a solid partnership with Chakabva. He deserved a century but was dismissed for 89 after Lunch.
Chakabva was not having a good series with the bat and his wicketkeeping was rather ordinary in this game. He needed runs under his belt desperately and it wouldn’t have been a much better platform for him to do so. There was pressure, his side was losing the encounter and needed someone to step up.
By the time Raza was dismissed, Zimbabwe just had a lead of 88 runs and had to play out 64 overs to save the Test. It virtually looked impossible, but as it goes with the saying – when the going gets tough, the tough get going. The situation demanded precision, determination and sheer focus. The journey was filled with thorns, but the end was beautiful. And Chakabva, Cremer soaked in all the pressure to walk across the difficult path together and script history for Zimbabwe.
There were few dropped chances; Chakabva was dropped early on in the innings, but he did extremely well in capitalising on it. It was important for both the batsmen to win smaller battles first and bid their time at the crease. They had a mountain to climb and had to play out almost two sessions for survival.
Chakabva looked a bit unsettled at the start, he missed a lot of deliveries outside off, but didn’t throw it away. He stuck to his guns and ensured his wicket was intact. Cremer was lucky to have few umpiring decisions going his way, as West Indies couldn’t do much about it after having used up all the reviews. Skipper Cremer showed mind-boggling determination and led the team from the front. Everyone knew he could bat, but this was a different challenge altogether.
West Indies tried everything, but couldn’t break this partnership, which accounted for 91 runs. More importantly, they played out a plethora of overs under the pump. The ball was turning and at times kept low, but both the Zimbabwean batsmen did well in not losing their wickets. And post Tea, it was quite evident that the game couldn’t conclude any result. Chakabva confronted 198 deliveries for his unbeaten 71 while Cremer remained alive for 150 balls. They knew their goal and did well to achieve it.
Zimbabwe fought till the very end and achieved an implausible result. Despite losing the series, they have a lot of positives to garner from this encounter, which will help them in the series to come. “It feels good, coming from behind in a lot of this Test match. We were behind on the second and third day, today as well. Feels good to know that we are a team that will fight till the end. A lot of positives,” Cremer said after the match.
Cremer spoke about how the team is moving forward and Chakabva’s brilliance under pressure. He said, “Chakabva was under pressure going into this game, he was short of runs and it was really nice to see him come good. We have more than just 1-2 players putting their hands up and that is a good sign going forward.”
The trio of Raza, Chakabva and Cremer worked wonders for Zimbabwe as they snatched a win from West Indies jaws. Throughout the series, Zimbabwe had different heroes stepping up at different times, and it’s just a matter of time when they start clicking together, which Zimbabwe need at the moment. Each and every individual is trying to pull up his game and contribute in some way or the other. Needless to say, but the future looks bright for this resilient Zimbabwe side and the road is promising.