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Opinion

My top five Test knocks by Zimbabwean batsman

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Roar Guru
4th April, 2020
6

Zimbabwe are a side who were very good and underrated in the Test arena during the 90s and early 2000s.

Unfortunately, political interference led to them playing no Test cricket between 2006-2010. Since then, they have shown glimpses of what they’re capable of when performing to their full potential, but not consistently enough to prove a real threat in the longest format.

Here are my top five Test knocks that I’ve seen by Zimbabwean batsmen.

5. Hamilton Masakadza 158 vs Bangladesh – Khulna, Bangladesh, 2014
On a good batting surface, Bangladesh had racked up 433. Zimbabwe lost an early wicket and out came veteran batsman Hamilton Masakadza at number three. Masakadza formed two 50+ stands with Brian Chari and Brendan Taylor, but the Zimbabweans were still in strife at 5-189.

Masakadza continued to battle as keeper Regis Chakabva joined him and the pair put on 147 for the sixth stand before Shakib Al Hasan ended Masakadza’s marathon.

Zimbabwe struggles against left-arm spin whenever they play Bangladesh and the Tigers usually field two left-arm spinners against Zimbabwe regardless of the format. Bangladesh did just that with Shakib Al Hasan and Taijul Islam picking up 80 per cent of Zimbabwe’s wickets in the test.

Masakadza’s quality knock had lasted seven hours – safely negotiating Bangladesh’s spin dominated attack for 110 overs. Unfortunately for the Zimbabwean fans, their batsmen collapsed in the second innings late on day five as Bangladesh won by 162 runs in the last session of the Test.

4. Brendan Taylor 110 v Bangladesh – Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2018
With the amount of Test cricket Zimbabwe have played against Bangladesh since being reinstated into the Test arena, there was bound to be more than one quality knock in my top five against Bangladesh. After shocking the Tigers in Sylhet, Zimbabwe went to Dhaka with the confidence of at least drawing the second Test and winning the series.

Despite Bangladesh scoring 7-522 dec in their first innings, the Zimbabweans knew that the pitch wasn’t your traditional Bangladesh pitch and that it was still a good deck to bat on.

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Brendan Taylor walked in with Zimbabwe at 2-40. He formed a 56-run stand with Brian Chari for the third wicket before putting on 139 for the sixth wicket with keeper Peter Moor. Taylor patiently ground out against the Bangladesh bowlers, confidently driving and sweeping with full control of his shots.

He reached his century off 187 balls and showed to the rest of the Zimbabwean line-up that you still have to take time to cash in on good batting wickets. The stalwart was dismissed for 110, trying to slog-sweep Mehedi Hasan over the boundary only for Taijul Islam to take a screamer at square leg.

Taylor would end up scoring another century in the second innings, but the lack of clarity in plans and application from the rest of the Zimbabwe batsmen led to Bangladesh winning the test and drawing the series halfway through Day 5. Taylor’s twin tons showed that all of the experience he gained of playing county cricket had paid off.

It was a shame that he had retired from international cricket in 2015 due to lack of financial security. Luckily he returned to international cricket in 2017 and remains a key cog in the Zimbabwe team.

3. Brendan Taylor 117 v New Zealand – Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 2011
Yes, another Brendan Taylor classic. After all, he’s only behind Andy Flower in terms of most centuries for Zimbabwe in Test cricket. This innings nearly brought in the upset of the 21st century in Test cricket.

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On a relatively flat wicket in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe was tasked with chasing 366 in approximately 114 overs after Ross Taylor declared in the evening session of Day 4. Zimbabwe lost their second wicket in the last over of Day 4, meaning their skipper Brendan Taylor would walk out on Day 5.

Taylor started patiently with scoring just eight runs off 21 balls. After that, he switched gears. Taylor started attacking the Blackcaps bowlers including clubbing Chris Martin over mid-on for six early on Day 5. Taylor continued his counter-attack as he scored his fifty off just 51 balls and scored his second Test ton off 118 balls.

He formed two crucial partnerships of 96 with Tino Mawoyo and 108 with Tatenda Taibu in their quest for an unlikely win. Taylor was eventually dismissed two balls after tea for a well-made 117.

Taylor’s knock had taken the Blackcaps by surprise as they probably expected Zimbabwe to shut up shop and bat for the draw on Day 5. Instead, Taylor’s counter-attack gave Zimbabwe 101 runs to chase down in the last session with seven wickets in hand. Following Taylor’s dismissal, the Blackcaps regained control of the Test and won by 34 runs.

In just their third Test after readmission, Zimbabwe had nearly pulled off the unthinkable and Taylor’s knock played a massive role in that.

2. Tino Mawoyo 163 v Pakistan – Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 2011
Zimbabwe were playing their second Test after readmission against Pakistan. Despite beating Bangladesh comfortably, many pundits expected Pakistan to steamroll Zimbabwe in three or four days. Zimbabwean opener Tino Mawoyo had other ideas.

Instead of hitting out and taking on the Pakistan bowlers, Mawoyo decided to grind out the Pakistan attack into boredom. Not once did he look flustered or play a risky shot as he patiently worked his way to 50 off 161 balls.

Mawoyo was disciplined throughout Day 1 as he finished stumps 82 not out off 273 balls. Mawoyo’s patience would be rewarded as he scored his maiden ton off 327 balls. After his ton, Mawoyo shifted from first to third gear for the first time in his innings as he scored his fifty runs off 95 balls.

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The opener’s innings would come to an end, but not by any bowler – he just ran out of partners.

163 not out. Just the third batsman from Zimbabwe to carry their bat in Test cricket. Mawoyo battled for nearly 11 hours – a testament to his temperament, patience and determination to hang on. His innings proved that good old-fashioned Test batting was still alive in the new generation of Test players.

Despite their competitiveness for ten sessions, Zimbabwe collapsed in the second innings faster than Tottenham under pressure as Pakistan won by seven wickets before lunch on Day 5.

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1. Craig Ervine 160 v Sri Lanka – Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2017
After winning the ODI series 3-2, Zimbabwe were high on confidence heading towards the lone Test match against Sri Lanka in Colombo. Sri Lanka were on top early on and Craig Ervine walked out with Zimbabwe 2-38.

He formed an 84-run stand with Sikandar Raza and a 65-run stand with Malcolm Waller as the left-hander reached his second Test century off just 146 balls. He then added 74 with Donald Tiripano for the ninth wicket as he reached 150 on the stroke of stumps.

Ervine’s innings came to a halt when he tried to uppercut a Lahiru Kumara bouncer, only for it to fall to the hands of the third man.

What was outstanding about Ervine’s innings was how confident he was in his game plan against some very good bowlers in their conditions. Whatever the spin duo of Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera tried, Ervine had an answer to counter it. He played traditional sweep shots, reverse sweeps, taking the spinners down the ground, square drives and flick shots through the leg side.

Ervine’s knock had everything. until then, I hadn’t seen a non-Asian batsman bat and score so effortlessly in Sri Lankan conditions. Zimbabwe batted brilliantly in both innings, but Sri Lanka prevailed – chasing 391 with four wickets in hand in a thriller of a Test match.

Since their readmission into Test cricket in August 2011, Zimbabwe have only played 27 test matches. That’s an average of under three Tests a year. Not one of those Tests was against Australia, England or India. For a Test-playing nation, it’s disappointing and disgraceful to see.

For Zimbabwe to improve in Tests, they deserve at least six to eight Tests a year. They have some handy batsmen and seamers who have proved their mettle in international and county cricket. If they don’t play more Tests, us cricket fans won’t get to see the next Brendan Taylor score twin tons on the subcontinent or the next Hamilton Masakadza give a scare to the bigger boys.