Ballance, Mavuta put in heroic performances as Zimbabwe fight back
West Indies – 447-6 declared and 21-0 in 13 overs (Kraigg Brathwaite 11*, Tagenarine Chanderpaul 10*)
Zimbabwe – 379-9 declared in 125 overs (Gary Ballance 137*, Innocent Kaia 67, Brandon Mavuta 56; Alzarri Joseph 3/75, Jason Holder 2/55, Gudakesh Motie 2/110)
Day 4 – Stumps: West Indies lead by 89 runs
Gary Ballance wrote himself into the history books with an unbeaten century on debut as he led Zimbabwe’s stunning fightback on the fourth day of the first Test match against the West Indies at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Tuesday.
He scored 137 before the home side declared on 379 for nine in reply to the tourists’ first innings tally of 447 for six declared.
Zimbabwe had seemed in all sorts of trouble at 192 for seven wickets, when Ballance was joined by Brandon Mavuta, who followed up his maiden five-wicket haul in this match with a brilliant 56-run knock, as the heroic pair added 135 runs for the eighth wicket to avoid the follow-on.
The hosts began the day on 114 for three wickets, with the new man at the crease, Ballance, joining Innocent Kaia, who had 59.
The team’s first aim was clearly to avoid the likelihood of having to follow on, and for this they needed to make their score at least 298.
The pair stayed together for about seven overs before Kaia was hit at the top of his front pad by a ball from Alzarri Joseph, but was still given out by the umpire Paul Reiffel.
It was an unfortunate end to an admirable début innings of 67, scored off 132 balls and which included nine fours – the score was 128 for four wickets.
Tafadzwa Tsiga scored only two before he was dismissed, also lbw to Joseph, this time back on his stumps, and Zimbabwe now appeared to be in some trouble with only Ballance of the recognised batters left and only 132 runs on the board.
This became 147 for six wickets as Brad Evans was next to go, edging a ball from Kemar Roach to the keeper for seven.
Wellington Masakadza was next in, and he kept a cool head while Ballance wisely continued his steady, cautious game, waiting in hope for a partner capable of staying in with him.
Masakadza played the perfect supporting role right up to the lunch interval, when he drove a catch off Gudakesh Motie to mid-off, having made 15 runs off 76 balls – 192 for seven.
After lunch Ballance was joined by Mavuta and these two tamed the West Indies attack throughout the afternoon session.
They were still together when the follow-on target of 298 was safely passed.
A few runs later, just before tea, Ballance was on 99 and Mavuta 49, with the spinner reaching his fifty first, scored off 107 balls.
Two overs later Ballance reached his century in the grand manner with a six, a sweep over the square-leg boundary – it took him 190 balls.
He is only the third Zimbabwean to score a century on his Test début for the country, following the past greats Dave Houghton and Hamilton Masakadza, and his fifth in all, having scored four centuries during his England Test career.
Ballance is only the second player in cricket history to score a Test century for two different countries, the first being Kepler Wessels who achieved this for Australia and South Africa.
This was just before tea, when the score was 313 for seven, with the batters on 107 and 52 respectively.
They took the score to 327, a partnership of 135 for the eighth wicket, and were within reach of the Zimbabwe Test record for that wicket, 168 by Heath Streak and Andy Blignaut, also against the West Indies, in 2003/04.
At this point, however, Mavuta swung across the line and was bowled by a ball from Jason Holder that kept low, having made 56 off 132 balls with nine fours.
Victor Nyauchi came in next, smashed three fours and scored 13 runs off 10 balls before he tried to pull a bouncer from Holder and skyed a catch to the wicket-keeper – 341 for nine.
The last man, Richard Ngarava, was also aggressive, and hit Motie for a huge straight six that could not be found, requiring a replacement ball.
With nine wickets down, Zimbabwe declared with the score at 379, a deficit of 68.
The last pair had put on 38 together, of which Ngarava had 19 not out, and Ballance was unbeaten with his magnificent 137 not out.
Balance had faced 231 balls and hit two sixes and 12 fours, one of the great innings of Zimbabwe cricket history.
It is all the more remarkable as he has not played any first-class cricket for 17 months, and his only top-class cricket since then has been in the one-day international matches against Ireland.
Zimbabwe’s decision to declare did not pay off as had been anticipated, however, as the West Indies solidly batted out the day, scoring 21 without loss in 13 overs – Kraigg Brathwaite made 11 of those and Chanderpaul 10.