The rain allowed only 89 overs of play on the first two days in Bulawayo. Yet, when stumps were called on Day 5, the match was only four wickets away from a result, or 139 runs, whichever way you want to look at it. Though Zimbabwe were never ahead in the game, they would be content with fighting back twice with the bat which never really pushed them out of the battle as well.
In the first innings, it was Gary Ballance who marked his return to Test and Zimbabwean cricket with a timely hundred, which rescued the hosts from a follow-on threat to shifting the onus on West Indies to push for a win. In the second innings, it was the wicketkeeper batter Tafadzwa Tsiga who batted out 83 balls in the final session alongside Wellington Masakadza’s 36-ball 0 not out to keep the Caribbeans at bay.
There was also Brandon Mavuta’s fifty in the first innings. He was dropped early in his knock when Jason Holder spilled a straightforward chance at mid-off. Had he taken it, West Indies could have romped to an easy win. That is what will irk them the most. Missing out on a win after creating chances. Heading to the second and final Test of the series, the Windies will have nothing but a victory in their mind. It is cliched but they need it for their own confidence after the drubbing they received in their previous Test series in Australia. Zimbabwe would like to keep the fighting spirits high and find a way to sneak into the match.
Things to watch out for
- In Tests since 2020, West Indies’ top seven batters average 28.7, which is lower than Zimbabwe’s tally of 30.3. West Indies declared in both the innings of the first Tests which is a sign of a healthy batting line-up but most of the work was done by Kraigg Brathwaite and Tagenarine, with a 336-run opening stand. The remainder of their batting still remains largely untested, even though Jermaine Blackwood and Raymon Reifer notched up fifties in the second innings.
However, most of West Indies’ undoing with the bat has been caused by opposition pacers. The Zimbabwean pacers average 43.7 runs per wicket collectively, second worst, out of whom Blessing Muzarbani has 19 scalps at 22.4 runs apiece. He is not in the squad and everybody else averages in excess of 45.
- Kyle Mayers has a unique record in home and away Tests. At home, he is a fantabulous bowler. He has a wicket every 15 runs and 39.4 balls. However, in away Tests, he has a lone wicket at an average of 131 and strike rate of 282. But, while batting he has a better average in away matches (43.6) as compared to 31.5 at home. He has played over five Tests in both conditions.
- In a 18-year old career, Chamu Chibhabha has played only four Tests, 109 ODIs and 36 T20Is for Zimbabwe. The Bulawayo Test was his first since 2017. With scores of only 9 and 31, along with two scores of 16 and 40 in two ODIs in January (his first few since 2020), Chibhabha will be under some pressure to vindicate his return at the age of 36.
Pitch and conditions
In Tests since 2011, Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo, has witnessed seven matches and it has been in favor of the batsmen. Batting teams have averaged 37.1, and in both first and in every innings of the match, 200+ runs have been scored on an average.
Adding further, bowlers have bagged a wicket every 75.7 balls in the aforementioned time. At venues where 150+ wickets have been taken by the bowlers, this venue has been the worst among all for bowlers.
In any case, the spinners have a slight edge over the pacers. The pacers have bagged 48.5 percent of the wickets as compared to 51.5 percent by spinners.
Both sides may field the same XI which took part in the first Test
Zimbabwe: Innocent Kaia, Tanunuraw Makoni, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine ( c ), Gary Ballance, Tafadzwa Tsiga (wk), Wellington Masakadza, Brad Evans, Brandon Mavuta, Richard Ngarava, Victor Nyauchi
West Indies: Kraig Brathwaite (c), Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Raymon Reifer, Jermaine Blackwood, Kyle Mayers, Roston Chase, Joshua Da Silva (wk), Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Gudakesh Motie