Zimbabwe patiently accumulate

Zimbabwe took a cautious approach on the first day of the first test against India at Bulawayo today, scoring at well below three an over but easing their way through to a creditable total in the process. India’s bowling, although impressive at times, suffered from apparent rustiness in the form of no-balls and occasionally off-target bowling that was punished by the Zimbabwean batsmen, in particular Tatenda Taibu and Terry Duffin.

Among 3 changes from the side thrashed by New Zealand, Zimbabwe included two debutants in their eleven, Charles Coventry, probably selected on the back of his promising performances in the triangular ODI tournament, and Terry Duffin. The latter walked out to open the batting in his first test with Brendan Taylor after the home side had won the toss and elected to bat. The other change was Gavin Ewing coming in for Prosper Utseya, again probably due to one-day international performances. The two openers made a reasonable start to the innings, the score reaching 25 before Zaheer Khan announced his arrival on the tour by having Taylor caught by Gautam Gambhir.

A similar partnership followed as Duffin continued to bat sensibly, this time in the company of Hamilton Masakadza. But then, with the score at 45, Zaheer struck again by catching the edge of Masakadza’s bat on the way through to Dinesh Karthik. Renowned slow-scorer Dion Ebrahim was the next man in and he and Duffin defended their way through to lunch. The opening session saw just 75 runs scored as Zimbabwe made an obviously cautious start to their innings. Duffin finished the session with 26 from 88 balls, a slow and steady start to his test career.

Duffin continued his determined debut knock after the break and reached fifty before the partnership of 74 between he and Ebrahim was broken as he was caught LBW by Pathan for 56. His partner followed just five runs later to the same bowler, caught and bowled to make the score 124/4.

The defensive approach by Zimbabwe continued throughout the day, as captain Taibu played patiently for a well-deserved half century, ably supported by Heath Streak with 27. Coventry had a less successful introduction to test cricket than his fellow debutant, being trapped LBW by Anil Kumble for just 2 to leave the score at 197/6. That got worse still as one of Zimbabwe’s stars of the ODI series Andy Blignaut fell the same way for 4, but the successful bowler this time was Zaheer with his third wicket of the day, and 211/7 was the score.

A lively innings towards the end of the day by the new man in Keith Dabengwa, in which he scored at not far short of a run a ball in reaching an unbeaten 33, would have woken up a few sections of the crowd as it brought the run rate for the day up over 2.8 per over.

Although credit must be given to Zimbabwe for a performance vastly improved from the series against New Zealand, India were far from perfect today as shown by the fact that there were no less than 20 no-balls by the Indian bowlers, a very large number and something that needs to be worked on ahead of their upcoming series against South Africa. The main culprits were Zaheer with nine, and surprisingly Kumble with six. However, they are two bowlers who joined the tour after the ODI tournament and are therefore slightly short of match practice.

Zimbabwe will be hoping to add a few more runs tomorrow morning before beginning the tough task of getting through the fearsome Indian batting lineup.

Match Summary – Stumps, Day 1

Zimbabwe 263-7
Tatenda Taibu 61no, Terry Duffin 56
Zaheer Khan 3-68, Irfan Pathan 2-50

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