ROSEAU – Yesterday it was Shane Shillingford with the ball.
Today it was Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle and Denesh Ramdin with the bat who made Zimbabwe suffer on a difficult second day of the second and final Test at Windsor Park, Roseau, Dominica.†Chanderpaul scored his 28th Test century, Gayle notched up his 15th and Ramdin missed out on his fourth by 14 runs as they pushed West Indies to 318 for 8 at the close, an imposing 206-run lead and left Zimbabwe plenty of time to consider surviving on the wearing pitch that they found difficult to cope with on the first day.
Chanderpaul’s 173-run stand with Ramdin all but snuffed out Zimbabwean hopes of making a contest of the match. There were numerous half-chances and missed opportunities and on 88 he was hit on the helmet but it looked as if Chanderpaul would be there at the close, if not this time next week, until Sean Williams claimed a dubious catch in the covers off Prosper Utseya. Recourse to the third umpire would surely have seen Chanderpaul sent back – but perhaps even the officials felt that he’d had a long enough go by then.
Zimbabwe will have to put up a much stiffer display with the bat if they are going to make West Indies utilise their second innings but if they absorbed anything other than sweat and dirt during Chanderpaul’s near six-hour stay at the crease then it would be the lessons of self-denial and discipline that are so important for success in Test cricket.
The left-hander faced 284 balls for his 108, his first century against the Africans, twice escaping chances to leg slip off Graeme Cremer, who toiled long and hard for his 2 for 102. Zimbabwe’s application could not be faulted, the plodding run rate attesting to their dogged approach in the field, and four wickets fell in the final hour as Cremer and Utseya finally garnered some reward. The spin that had manifested itself so extravagantly on the first day was largely absent for the Zimbabwe bowlers but Shillingford has already proved himself adept on this surface and he will have a chance to assess conditions at the wicket in the morning, should West Indies decide to continue batting.
Zimbabwe had started the second day in the best possible fashion, with a wicket from the first delivery – inevitably, it could only go downhill from there. Gayle roused himself after an unusually tentative performance on the previous evening to record his century – his first significant innings since making 150 and 64 on his comeback last year – but added only 40 to his overnight score before a brilliant catch from Kyle Jarvis removed him for 101.
Having collapsed in a tangle of limbs against spin in their first innings, Zimbabwe needed early wickets to prevent the hosts careering away from them. With Gayle and Marlon Samuels at the crease, and a deficit of only 61, there was every prospect of West Indies cracking on but Tendai Chatara threw a sleeper under the train with his opening delivery, full and wickedly swinging from leg stump to hit off as Samuels played around the ball.
The unexpected breakthrough ended a 79-run partnership and allowed the bowlers to create some pressure. Chatara, in particular, extracted seam movement from the pitch but after Gayle’s dismissal with the score on 181 – and the lead just six – the bowlers were to send down more than 50 wicketless overs in succession as the fourth-wicket pairing of Chanderpaul and Ramdin ground on, inch by unforgiving inch.
Chanderpaul may be among the most difficult batsmen in Test cricket to dislodge but he required a bit of luck as he was starting out, edging Chatara short of the slips and nearly playing on to Jarvis. There was also a sharp chance to leg slip against Cremer but Hamilton Masakadza was unable to get his hands under the ball; a review was wasted when an Utseya delivery was shown to be pitching outside leg and missing off.
After scoring a couple of early boundaries, Chanderpaul battened down the hatches. Gayle, too, seemed becalmed, as 44 came from the first 17 overs of the day. Even in Test cricket, Gayle is hard to tie down, however, and he moved from 81 to 100 in five deliveries, three of them swatted lazily over the ropes. One run after reaching his century, Gayle miscued taking the attack to Utseya again but it took a terrific catch from Jarvis, running in circles under a swirling ball at wide long-off, to remove him.
But Gayle’s dismissal was just the start of Zimbabwe’s hard grind.††