The Zimbabwe national cricket team made a mess of their return to Test cricket after a 19 month absence, staggering to a first inning total of 164 all out in their first of two Tests against New Zealand at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo yesterday.
BY KEVIN MAPASURE
Had there not been a healthy ninth wicket stand between Prince Masvaure, who scored 42 and Donald Tiripano, who was left stranded on 49 not out, the total could have been quite a measly and an embarrassing one.
The pair conducted the repair job from a position of 72/8 to add 85 handy runs before the collaboration was broken.
Masvaure faced 168, hitting seven boundaries while Tiripano faced 162 balls scoring six fours and clearing the boundary once.
Masvaure’s performance begged questions as to why he was shunted at number six considering he did well batting in the top order against South Africa A where he hit a century.
At stumps the Black Caps had cut the deficit to 132 but Zimbabwe could have made a breakthrough, but fluffed a run out chance early into the tourists’ innings.
New Zealand’s overnight score was 32 for no loss with Martin Guptill on 14 while Tom Latham will resume on 16 this morning.
Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer won the toss and chose to bat but nothing else went his way as he saw his batsmen filing back to the pavilion in quick succession.
Perhaps Cremer should have inserted the tourists when he won the toss?
But anyone else would have chosen to bat first, its only that his batsmen failed to back him in that decision falling to a combination of poor shot selection and some good bowling by New Zealand, particularly Neil Wagner who claimed six scalps.
Zimbabwe struggled against Wagner’s short ball, something he admitted was a deliberate strategy.
“Zimbabwe is a good side in their conditions so we had to come up with a few surprises for them and I am glad it worked,” he said.
Tiripano observed that the batsmen had failed to apply themselves well and needed to improve in the second innings.
“In Test cricket you are always going to face many tests and I think the guys failed to apply themselves well,” he noted.
The rot started when opener Brian Chari was dismissed with just the second ball of the day when Tim Southee picked his edge for Martin Guptill to complete the catch in the slip position.
Chamu Chibhabha (15), one of three debutants for the hosts, and veteran Hamilton Masakadza (15) set about on a repair mission with a second wicket stand of 31 runs, but once that partnership was broken, things went on a slippery slide for the hosts.
Zimbabwe collapsed from 35/1 to 36/4 in a space of just ten balls and were on 49/4 at lunch.
Not much changed afterwards with four more wickets falling even though Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza Butt offered a bit of resistence with a 36 run fifth wicket stand. But 72/4 soon became 72/8 with Ervine (13), Raza Butt (22) Regis Chakabva (0) and Cremer (0) all losing their wickets within nine balls to leave Zimbabwe’s innings ailing.
It took the unlikely combination of tail ender Tiripano and Masvaure to restore a bit of decency to Zimbabwe’s score with the partnership broken after the latter was snared by Southee well after tea, bringing debutant Mike Chinouya to the crease.
The Zimbabweans would have hoped that Tiripano and Masvaire would stay together to see out the day but that was not to be as Wagner returned to bowl out the debutant to wrap up the innings.
Chibhabha, Williams, Raza Butt, Chakabva and Cremer were all victims of Wagners’ brilliant bowling.
Williams made a case with the umpire on his dismissal as the ball struck his helmet and not the bat. Television replays showed he had a point.
Zimbabwe; Chamu Chibhabha, Brian Chari, Hamilton Masakadza, Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, Sikandar Raza Butt, Prince Masvaure, Regis Chakabva, Graeme Cremer, Donald Tiripano, Mike Chinouya.
New Zealand; Tom Latham, Martin Guptil, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, B J Watling, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult.