Zimbabwe are no strangers to the woes of the batting collapse, but on the first day of the first Test at Queens Sports Club it was West Indies’ batting that had failed. After a steady start to their innings, the scale and speed of their collapse surprised even the hosts.
“When they were 170-odd for three we were not expecting them to be bowled out 45 runs later,” said Sean Williams, whose second spell brought 3 for 2 in four overs. “Between [Graeme] Cremer and I, we just tried to keep the squeeze on as much as possible, especially to Hope because we knew his hundred was coming up and we didn’t want him to have any strike. We kept the squeeze on and it worked for us.”
Captain Graeme Cremer was Zimbabwe’s leading wicket-taker with 4 for 64, and along with Williams he did most of the damage after tea. It was Sikandar Raza‘s offspin that started West Indies’ slide. He had a settled Roston Chase caught at short leg, and from then on Zimbabwe’s tails were up.
“We took it one wicket at a time,” Raza said. “When we got Roston Chase out, we thought we were in with a sniff. Credit to Sean and Graeme for the way they wrapped up the innings.”
Zimbabwe had asked the Queens curator for a spinning track, but with the speed West Indies folded, the amount of turn available on the first day surprised even them. “I wasn’t expecting it [to turn so much],” Williams said. “But I expect it to spin more as the Test goes on.”
“It suits us if it starts to turn,” Raza agreed. “We were hoping it would turn, so credit to the groundsmen for doing a fantastic job in pulling off what we asked for. Any lead now would be a good lead! We’ve got the three spinners plus the control of Jarv [Kyle Jarvis] and Bobby [Mpofu]. That gives us confidence that we can win this Test match, especially after rolling them over for 219. They batted for 83 overs and the game never got away from us.”
Much of Zimbabwe’s success was built on the early work the seamers had put in. Kyle Jarvis was willing to pitch the ball right up in pursuit of swing, while from the other end Chris Mpofu gave exceptional support in an opening spell that read 6-3-5-0.
“They [the seamers] bowled really well,” Williams said. “I think Chris Mpofu bowled exceptionally well in the beginning and so did Jarvis. The West Indies batsmen like bat on ball – as everybody knows – with the Calypso cricket and hitting boundaries. I felt we stuck to our guns, and stuck to our lines and lengths, and it ended up paying off.”
Now that the bowlers have done their job, it will be up to Zimbabwe’s batsmen to press home their advantage. Solomon Mire started brightly, but this is the sort of track that will require some hard graft.
“Shai Hope showed us the way to bat on that track.” Raza said. “Some guys got a good ball that they couldn’t have done too much about, but Hope showed how you might want to construct an innings on this track. Day two might be a better batting track.”
“But it depends on how we go about playing spin – I think that’s the key on this wicket,” Williams added. “Spin and the short ball will be key.”