HARARE – Day three has been described by some as the moving day in Test cricket, and, yesterday was no exception.
Zimbabwe started the day 233 runs in arrears, and would have been desperate to have got as close as possible to the Bangladeshi first innings total of 391 as possible.
But despite a career best 86 by Elton Chigumbura and an impressive 42 by Richmond Mutumbame, the home team still fell short by 109 runs.
Bangladesh would have been looking to take full advantage of the lead, but three quick wickets set the Tigers back, and instead of driving the nail home, the visitors suddenly found themselves having to consolidate their position.
Once again, their batsmen showed that they have come along in leaps and bounds over the last year or so, as the two left handers Shakib Al Hasan and Mominul Haque went about rebuilding the innings in a very impressive manner.
Haque, who is only 21-years-old, showed tremendous maturity and composure, as he no doubt fed off the experienced former captain Shakib.
What really impressed most of the media, was the positive nature both Haque and Shakib went about their business.
Both were quite prepared to punish the bad ball, but, were more than happy to rotate the strike.
When the Bangladeshi total had reached 55, 31 singles had been taken and only two boundaries hit.
Which is something the Zimbabwean top order can learn from. Like Zimbabwe, Bangladesh have struggled to find fast bowlers who have been able to consistently perform at the top level without breaking down, but maybe, just maybe they have found themselves a real gem in Robiul Islam.
He gets great shape when bowling to right handers, and the ball that knocked Elton Chigumbura’s stump out of the ground, would have made any fast bowler with a superior rank to Islam erupt with joy.
This is a young man who has all the attributes a coach wants from his strike bowler. He has enough pace to cause the batsmen problems, he has a very accurate and sharp bouncer, and he is not afraid to put in the hard yards and bowl lengthy spells for his country.
Throughout this Test match, most people have been remarking on how poorly Zimbabwe have been playing which is a fair comment, but, Bangladesh have been on their game and up to now have outplayed Zimbabwe in all facets of the game.
Their seamers have utilised the conditions, and, their batsmen, especially their middle order have been positive without being reckless.
Even if Zimbabwe were to get amongst the wickets and dismiss the Tigers relatively quickly today, one wonders if the hosts have the psychological capacity to chase down a total of 300 plus.
Fortunately, the pitch hasn’t shown too many signs of miss behaving, say for the odd ball keeping a bit low.
Zimbabwe have chased down totals on three occasions. The first successful chase was against Pakistan in 1998 when they beat a full strength Pakistan team by seven wickets.
The second was against Bangladesh at Harare Sports Club in 2001, and the third against India at the same venue, also in 2001.
There is no doubting the ability of this Zimbabwean team, we have seen glimpses of their potential on more than one occasion and against higher ranked Test nations.
But, in order to consistently perform, the confidence has to match the ability and promise. Right now, Zimbabwe have a brittle top order with very little runs between the three of them.
The team also cannot rely on Brendan Taylor to keep scoring runs as well. So, it is stating the obvious when saying that Vusi Sibanda, Regis Chakabva and Hamilton Masakadza need to dig deep and positively contribute if Zimbabwe still have hopes of saving, let alone winning this Test match. – Dean du Plessis