The fourth day in Bulawayo drew tenacious performances from batsmen on both sides, but West Indies will still go into the final day as firm favourites. Record contributions from Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich and quick wickets in Zimbabwe’s second innings put them in a virtually unassailable position. It took a battling unbeaten 94-runstand from Sikandar Raza and PJ Moor to stretch the match into a fifth day.
While Raza and Moor’s efforts stalled West Indies’ push for victory, the day belonged to Holder and Dowrich, who added 212, the most by an eighth-wicket pair for West Indies. Holder’s century was his second in Tests, and the first by a West Indies No. 9, while Dowrich’s joy at reaching his own maiden Test hundred was plainly evident.
Not since 1908 have both a no. 8 and no. 9 made centuries in the same innings of a Test. Clem Hill and Roger Hartigan did it for Australia against England at the Adelaide Oval, and Holder and Dowrich repeated that achievement against Zimbabwe to put their team in a winning position. Their efforts took West Indies to 448, a lead of 122, before the bowlers increased their advantage even further in keeping Zimbabwe to 140 for 4 at the close.
It was apparent early on this morning that this might not be Zimbabwe’s day. Regis Chakabva, who has had a difficult match behind the stumps, missed an edge of a flashing Holder drive in the sixth over of the morning and the West Indies captain punished the error as Zimbabwe’s marathon in the field continued unabated.
Holder and Dowrich mixed studied defense with daring strokes, and the arrival of the third new ball provided few alarms. Zimbabwe quickly reverted from pace to spin, and both men progressed steadily through the 90s. Holder was first to his ton, crunching Chisoro extravagantly through the covers for his ninth boundary.
Dowrich reached his landmark in even more emphatic style, stepping out to dispatch Cremer high over long off. Holder added another six – his second – as West Indies went on the charge, but the increase in tempo was quickly followed by the end of the innings. Chisoro trapped Dowrich lbw, playing back to one that rushed on, for his maiden Test wicket, and then bowled Holder around his legs. The spinner grabbed a third wicket, removing Roach lbw, to bring the innings to an end half an hour before lunch.
Though he failed with the bat, Roach excelled at his primary role as senior seamer. Operating from the City End, he got the better of Masakadza with a canny piece of Test fast bowling to draw first blood. Looking to leave the ball, Masakadza was deceived by Roach’s wide angle on delivery and some hooping inswing to have his off stump disturbed.
Mire then aimed an ill-judged pull at a length delivery in the final over before lunch, the ball keeping low to strike him in front of middle and leg. A pumped-up Roach gave Mire a rollicking send-off, earning a demerit point in the process. The lunch session allowed West Indies’ new ball bowlers to freshen up and, essentially, have two gos at the wilting Zimbabweans, and Shannon Gabriel bowled with vim and vigour after the interval. He hit Taylor on the glove with a bouncer that skidded through low, and between times maintained a testing line outside off stump. That line, along with pace and inward movement, eventually proved Taylor’s undoing, an indipper beating his flat-footed defense and pinging him right in front of middle.
With that, Zimbabwe were teetering at 23 for 3, and the pace bowlers continued to give PJ Moor and Craig Ervine a torrid time. They survived the burst, Holder replacing Roach from the City End, but what Roach couldn’t do, Bishoo soon did. With his second delivery, he rushed a legbreak through Ervine’s defense to bowl him for 22.
Moor and Raza took Zimbabwe to tea still 57 runs shy of making West Indies bat again, and amid lengthening shadows in the afternoon they chipped steadily away at the deficit. Mirroring his first innings effort, Moor shelved most of the big shots he is known for, though a pair of drives off Holder and Bishoo were the shots of the day. He was less successful against Gabriel, who touched 150kph in the afternoon and beat his edge multiple times.
At the other end, Raza was far less subdued and latched onto any loose bowling that came his way. Roach was flicked and driven for boundaries, while the spinners were attacked whenever they were too short, or too full. Bishoo was drilled for six over wide long on, and a quick single took Raza to a 111-ball fifty just after the final drinks break. The batting pair took Zimbabwe beyond parity, ensuring West Indies will at least have to bat again tomorrow.