BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s lower-order batters held out in the final session of the last day, including a 36-ball zero from Wellington Masakadza, to force a draw in the first cricket test against West Indies.
The hosts finished at 134-6 on Wednesday in 54 overs after being set 272 to win.
West Indies openers Kraigg Brathwaite and Tagenarine Chanderpaul had resumed the day at 21 without loss in the second innings — after sharing a stand of 336 in the first innings — and the visitors went on to declare at 203-5 soon after lunch. Masakadza returned bowling figures of 3-71, including the wickets of top scorers Raymon Reifer (caught and bowled for 58) and Jermaine Blackwood (caught behind for 57).
Zimbabwe was praised for accepting the challenge and going for the win before finding itself in trouble.
“To see Zimbabwe come back and force their way back into the game, and pushing for victory, says a lot about test cricket,” Brathwaite said. “I believe test cricket is alive. For the players, test cricket is about fighting for their country. Zimbabwe did that, that’s test cricket for you.”
Zimbabwe will be happiest with the result, given how Windies’ late bowling surge gave the visitors a real possibility of winning before debutant wicketkeeper Tafadzwa Tsiga (24 not out) and Masakadza helped their team survive at the Queens Sports Club.
Left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie took 4-50 for West Indies.
Brathwaite, who scored 182 in the first innings, said his team had sensed victory when Zimbabwe fell to 120-6.
“We wanted to take 10 wickets, that was the focus,” the West Indies captain said, “but we knew it was going to be difficult on that pitch, and Zimbabwe batted well.”
Zimbabwe’s wickets had tumbled quickly Wednesday, including the dismissal of former England batter Gary Ballance (18), who hit a debut century in the first innings to become the second player after Kepler Wessels (Australia and South Africa) to score a test ton for two different countries.
Zimbabwe showed intent in the rain-affected match on a largely lifeless wicket. Zimbabwe coach Dave Houghton, the former captain, has been credited for instilling a sense of confidence in his team since returning in June for a second spell as coach.
West Indies also declared its first innings, at 447-6, as Chanderpaul hit a double century. Zimbabwe leg-spinner Brandon Mavuta, playing his first test in five years, was effective on the slow and low pitch, taking a five-for, before he joined Ballance (137 not out) to lead a crucial fightback as the hosts declared on 379-9 in the first innings.
Zimbabwe, backed by a small but vociferous crowd, has been playing remarkably well in white-ball cricket over the past seven months when Houghton returned as coach, and it was keen to take the form into tests.
Assistant coach Stuart Matsikenyeri, a former Zimbabwe batter, said both teams went all out to win.
“No, I don’t think the West Indies took us for granted,” Matsikenyeri said. “With the way we have been playing lately, I don’t think anyone would take us for granted. They are a proud team, and they wanted to win … we came into the test match expecting to stay in the game, be positive. And being positive means winning.
“There were different phases, in some phases we were on top, in some we were not. That’s the nature of test cricket. When we realized that we were not going to win after all, the next thing was to draw.”
The second and final test begins on Sunday, after which West Indies will cross into South Africa for a multi-format series.