Familiar scenes at Bulawayo

Zimbabwe once again crumbled in front of a sparse home crowd on day 3 of the first test against India at Bulawayo today. India posted a massive first innings total in reply to Zimbabwe’s credible first effort of 279, and at the end of the day Zimbabwe had collapsed in their second innings, leaving them staring at an inevitable innings defeat.

Resuming the day on a dominant 325/3, India continued in the same fast-scoring way as on the previous day and the score reached 356 before VVS Laxman was run out for a brilliant 140, a welcome return to form.

Zimbabwe needed quick wickets, and, somewhat to the surprise of many people, they came when first Yuvraj Singh for 12 and then KKD Karthik for 1 fell to Keith Debengwa and Andy Blignaut respectively. Yuvraj was clean bowled and Karthik edged one through to his opposite number Tatenda Taibu as the score was reduced from a dominant 356/3 to 379/6, an extremely impressive fightback from the home team.

But then normal service resumed, albeit at a much slower pace than yesterday, as Sourav Ganguly and Irfan Pathan built a partnership. The two put on just under 100 runs, taking 32 overs to do so. Pathan made his way through to his second test fifty, but fell three short of his highest score as he hit a return catch to become Dabengwa’s second victim of the innings for 52, the team score 476/7.

Ganguly continued to slowly but steadily add to his total, eventually reaching his hundred from in excess of 250 deliveries. Just after the team score passed 500 he was out off the bowling of Gavin Ewing, caught by debutant Terry Duffin for 101. Anil Kumble was the next to go twenty runs later, caught by the other debutant Charles Coventry to give Dabengwa his third wicket.

Some exciting hitting followed, as Harbhajan Singh smashed 37 from 18 fours in an innings that included four fours and three sixes. Zaheer Khan joined in with a six of his own in his 13 not out, and the score rapidly shot up to 554 before Harbhajan’s was the last wicket to fall, caught by Coventry off the bowling of Blessing Mahwire, his fourth wicket of the innings.

Zimbabwe’s reply made the worst possible start when Brendan Taylor was dismissed in the first over, lbw to Pathan for 4. From there, it got even worse. Hamilton Masakadza was caught by Kumble off the same bowler for 2, leaving the score at 9/2, and Duffin followed with no addition to the score, clean bowled by Zaheer for 2.

The score crawled up to 16 before Dion Ebrahim was clean bowled by Pathan for 1, and Pathan was on a hat-trick when Streak was out LBW for a golden duck to the first ball of his next over with the score at a disastrous 18/5.

Coventry and Taibu put on a counter-attacking partnership for the sixth wicket, putting on 49 in less than 10 overs before Coventry was out to what turned out to be the last ball of the day, caught by Gautam Gambhir off Harbhajan for 24.

So Zimbabwe end the day on 67/6, still 208 short of making India bat again. For the third time this summer, Zimbabwe are looking at an embarrassing innings defeat. But at least this time they’ve survived the third day.

Match Summary – Stumps – Day 3

India 554 all out
VVS Laxman 140, Sourav Ganguly 101
Blessing Mahwire 4-92, Keith Dabengwa 3-127

Zimbabwe 67/6
Tatenda Taibu 30no, Charles Coventry 24
Irfan Pathan 4-35, Harbhajan Singh 1-14

Zimbabwe trail by 208 runs with 4 wickets in hand.

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