HARARE – The first test was all about Zimbabwe. They posted a decent first innings total, thanks in the main to Brendan Taylor, then their bowlers put together a collective team effort that saw Bangladesh well and truly blown out of the water.
They then rubbed salt into already raw wounds by choosing not to enforce the follow on, and despite a top order collapse, the home team were able to still set Bangladesh a highly unlikely total of 483 to win.
In a short space of time, Bangladesh have neatly transferred the pressure onto Zimbabwe who now find themselves in real danger of losing a Test match on home soil to Bangladesh.
Should this happen, it would be the first time Zimbabwe would have lost to Bangladesh at home, and, it would also be Bangladesh’s second Test win over Zimbabwe and their third overall.
Zimbabwe have shown that it is considerably easier winning Test matches when holding all the aces.
They have shown that when they are front-runners, they are hard to stop. But, it is clear to see that when the shoe is on the other foot, they find it considerably harder to compete, let alone win.
And yet, this isn’t the first time a Zimbabwean team have found themselves in real danger of losing by a big margin.
In years gone by, the team have pulled off a few Houdini acts to avoid defeat when it seemed certain that they were heading that way.
The last match that springs to mind, is the second Test played between Zimbabwe and the West Indies at Harare sports club back in 2001.
Zimbabwe had batted first and were bundled out for 131 with Guy Whittall top scoring with 43, with paceman Colin Stuart taking 3-33, and yes, you guessed it.
A left arm spinner by the name of Neil McGarrell 4-23. The West Indies replied with alacrity, as they piled on 347 in their first innings, and the majority of the media were speculating that the Test would probably be wrapped up sometime during the fourth day, and that the West Indies would have recorded yet another innings win.
But, they should have known that Zimbabwe were made of much sterner stuff than their first innings failure.
After all, Andrew Flower’s career changing innings of 232 not out would still have been fresh in the minds of the Zimbabweans, the only difference on this occasion was that there was no Andrew Flower.
The then world’s number ranked test batsman was still recovering from surgery to his finger, and, it was rather foolishly believed that if you got Flower cheaply, or if he was injured, Zimbabwe would simply capitulate.
This second innings was when a new star was born, when Hamilton Masakadza was the cause of many a teary eye, when he stroked his name into the history books, and more importantly, contributed to his team salvaging a draw as Zimbabwe were able to declare on a mammoth 563 with Masakadza making 119, Craig Wishart 93, Andy Blignaut 92, Heath Streak 83 not out, and Alistair Campbell 65.
Suddenly the West Indies were on the back foot, and had it not being for the fifth day being washed out by unseasonal rain, Zimbabwe may have been victorious.
So, are the current team capable of digging deep and fighting back? What a lot of people don’t realise, is that it is much more than batsmen knuckling down and scoring runs, or an inspiring spell of bowling that changes the outcome of a Test match.
There has to also be a good relationship between players and the coaches as well as the entire board.
When Zimbabwe fought back against the West Indies, there were a few unresolved issues off the field, but, the players and the board were always quick to set aside their differences and focus on the game.
Right now, it would appear that there is tension in the air, despite Zimbabwe’s first Test win against Bangladesh.
Do the players possibly not like Steven Mangongo’s approach of ranting and raving and instilling fear into players when they have a bad day?
Are they unhappy with the chairman of selectors who bulldozes his way into meetings and who interferes and does as he pleases?
Or, is it simply a matter of self belief and confidence? It just seems that the team have chosen the option of playing safe and defensive cricket, which has suited Bangladesh down to the ground. – Dean du Plessis
*Dean du Plessis, who was born blind, is a leading Zimbabwean cricket writer and broadcaster, who writes regularly for the Daily News and Daily News on Sunday. He can be contacted on:
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