West Indies openers grind out fifties before rain curtails first day

West Indies – 112-0 in 51 overs (Kraigg Brathwaite 55*, Tagenarine Chanderpaul 55*)

Zimbabwe – 


Day 1 – Stumps

The Zimbabwe bowlers put up a good show on the opening day of the first Test match against the West Indies at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Saturday, but they could not separate the visiting team’s openers, who put on 112 together without losing a wicket in the play that was possible on a rainy day.

The home side are without five of their top players: Sean Williams, Blessing Muzarabani and Tendai Chatara are all injured, while Sikandar Raza and Ryan Burl are away playing franchise cricket.

As a result, the Zimbabwe team now playing is very inexperienced: the captain, Craig Ervine, has played in 18 previous Test matches, while Gary Ballance has featured in 23, all for England.

The other nine players have played in only 15 Test matches among them, with Victor Nyauchi the most experienced of these with six.

Apart from Ballance, there were four debutants in opening batters Innocent Kaia and Tanu Makoni, pace bowler Brad Evans and wicketkeeper-batter Tafadzwa Tsiga.

The tourists opened their batting with their captain, Kragg Brathwaite, and the left-handed Tagenarine Chanderpaul, against the bowling of the left-arm pacer Richard Ngarava and Nyauchi.

The first session of play saw an intense battle worthy of any Test match, as the Zimbabwe bowlers did a fine job, forcing the West Indies openers to play themselves in with great determination and taking no risks.

But fortune favoured the visitors, who reached lunch without the loss of a wicket.

The first hour’s play brought 28 runs off 14 overs, and the pre-lunch session 54 off 27, a bare two runs an over.

Ngarava and Nyauchi bowled a testing opening spell, which was backed up well by Evans, and then Wellington Masakadza and Brandon Mavuta also impressed before lunch.

The hard work continued in the afternoon session, with the batters anxious to push the score on a little faster now, and the first landmark was Brathwaite’s fifty, which came up off 116 balls just before afternoon drinks.

In the 47th over, Chanderpaul threw his natural caution to the winds and suddenly hit Mavuta for two successive lofted fours to bring up the hundred total.

Three overs later he reached his second Test fifty with a pull for four off Ngarava – it took him 165 balls.

Just after this Mavuta had a very strong appeal for lbw against Brathwaite turned down, as he beat him with a spinning leg-break in what was certainly a close call.

Only two or three minutes later, at about 2.10pm, the darkening skies began to leak badly, and the players had to flee the field as the covers were brought on as quickly as possible.

The score was 112 for no wicket after 51 overs, and both batters were on 55.

No further play was possible with rain wiping out the entire final session.