|Scorecard:||Zimbabwe A v Bangladesh A|
DateLine: 22nd February 2005
Toss: Zimbabwe A (decided to field)
Lunch: Bangladesh A 130/3 off 32 overs (Hossain 65*, Wasseluddin 0*)
Tea: Bangladesh A 231/7 off 57.3 overs (Riyad 42*)
Close: Bangladesh A 254; Zimbabwe A 57/3 off 20 overs (Duffin 22*, Cremer 0*)
The first international match between Zimbabwe A and Bangladesh A at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo appeared to be fairly evenly balanced after the first day’s play. The tourists were dismissed for 254, to which the home side replied with 57 for three wickets. The highlights of the day were a determined century from the Bangladeshi opener Roqibul Hassan and good bowling by Blessing Mahwire and Campbell Macmillan especially for Zimbabwe A.
Queens curator Noel Peck had prepared an unusually green pitch for this match, and Dion Ebrahim, captaining Zimbabwe A, had no hesitation in putting the tourists in to bat on winning the toss, an almost unheard-of move on what is usually a batting paradise. But this pitch was a sheep in wolf’s clothing, and there was little movement for the bowlers, although the bounce was a little uneven at times. The fact that 13 wickets fell during the day cannot really be blamed on the behaviour of the pitch, although it may well have had a psychological impact on the batsmen.
There was a bit of confusion before the start as the wrong sized balls had been sent down from Harare, and the local association had to dig into its stocks to find the correct type. But play managed to start on time, with spectators numbering single figures due to the lack of advertising locally. But later in the day the numbers would approach 100.
The left-handed captain, Nafees Ahmed, got the score moving with the second ball as he turned Blessing Mahwire backward of square leg for a single. An edge by his partner Roqibul Hassan through the slips that only ran for two instead of reaching the boundary showed that the outfield was pretty slow too. The early indications were that it could well be a low-scoring match.
The openers seemed to find little difficulty in the pitch or the bowled, though, as they moved the score on steadily with well-placed ones and twos. The pacy but erratic Ian Nicolson bowled opposite Mahwire, straying too frequently down leg side in a manner that would have cost him dearly in one-day cricket, and Nafees glanced him for the first two boundaries of the innings in the sixth over.
Campbell Macmillan, who has played little cricket beyond club level, and that occasionally, for the last two seasons due to injury replaced him, and showed that he has not lost his ability to pitch the ball too short. Mahwire did cause the batsmen concern at times with his lift and the occasional yorker, and it is to be hoped there are no further concerns about his bowling action.
Unbelievably, the first appeal of the day took 45 minutes to arrive; Ahmed tried to hook a bouncer from Mahwire but umpire Manny Mhlanga, probably correctly, ruled that the ball had come off the arm rather than bat or glove on its way through to the keeper. Ahmed did most of the scoring, but Hassan did his part, and played a magnificent cover drive for four off the back foot, off Macmillan.
The fifty came up in less than an hour. Hassan had 29 when he slashed Nicolson through the slips for four, with third slip unable to do more than get a hand to what would have been a brilliant catch. But in the same over the brilliant catch did occur, with Ahmed the victim. He edged Macmillan low, for Vusi Sibanda at second slip to dive to his right and grasp the chance at ankle-height. He made 27, having been overtaken by Hassan, and Bangladesh A were 63 for one.
New man Shamsu Rahman showed aggression right from the start, and scored 8 runs off 9 balls before he tried to shoulder arms to a rising ball from Macmillan, but only succeeded in gloving it to the wicketkeeper, Tafadzwa Mufambisi. Bangladesh A were 83 for two.
Hassan reached his fifty with a classic drive through extra cover for four off Macmillan, while Test player Tushar Imran batted steadily at the other end. All the seamers had a stint from both ends before lunch, before Graeme Cremer was brought on to bowl his leg-spinners. Then Mahwire, changing ends again, broke through with a length ball that shot through low before he could get his bat down and had him adjudged lbw, after a Bucknor-esque delay, by umpire Mhlanga for 14; 123 for three.
On the stroke of lunch, Hassan, who had hitherto used his feet well against Cremer, leapt down the pitch, yorked himself, but escaped being stumped as the ball rebounded off the pads of wicketkeeper Mufambisi. After the interval Macmillan bowled really well and gave new batsman Wasseluddin a torrid team, beating the bat time and again, though a slightly fuller length might well have found the edge of the bat.
At the other end Nicolson could not maintain the pressure at first and bowled a spate of no-balls. But he gradually settled, and then claimed the wicket of the struggling Wasseluddin, who aimed a half-hearted slash at a short ball too close to him and edged a catch that the keepr took smartly over his head. He made 2 off 29 balls; 153 for four.
Hassan, 79 at this point, now went right into his shell for a while before regaining his touch and confidence and moving smartly onward towards his century. Finally a sweep off Cremer to very fine leg brought him the final two runs needed to reach three figures. That landmark seemed to cost him his concentration and in the next over he edged Mahwire low to second slip, where Sibanda took another good catch. He made exactly 100 in an excellent innings; 198 for five. It was later reported that Hassan was born in 1989 and is therefore just 15 years old.
The bowlers were now on fire and on top, while the batsmen struggled. Ebrahim kept an admirably attacking field; even to Hassan on 100, he had four slips. Dhiman Ghosh scored just a single before he lost his off stump to Mahwire; 207 for six.
The in batsman, Mahmud Ullah Riyad, was not prepared to settle for being dominated and kept the runs coming. On the stroke of tea Mohammad Sharif, who had first visited Zimbabwe in 2001 to play Test cricket at the age of 15, drove Cremer straight to Macmillan at mid-on and departed for 5; 231 for seven. The home side was steadily gaining control.
After tea, new man Syed Rasel had not scored when he lashed out at a short ball from Cremer and slip dropped a sharp chance that came right at his chest. He then concentrated on hanging in there while Riyad reached his enterprising fifty off 61 balls. But when he had 55 Riyad tried unsuccessfully to withdraw his bat from a short ball from Macmillan and edged a catch to the keeper; 247 for eight.
Next to go was Rasel (3), who dabbed at a ball from Macmillan outside the off stump and was caught by Craig Ervine at the third of four slip and gully fielders; 252 for nine. Finally the innings closed as Enamul Haque (0) edged Macmillan for Sibanda to pick up his third catch of the innings. Shahadat Hossain was unbeaten on 6; the innings total a rather disappointing 254.
Macmillan took the best bowling figures of four for 63, while Mahwire had three for 48 and Nicolson was perhaps fortunate with two wickets while conceding 80 runs off just 14 overs. Cremer did a useful job with one for 47 off 15.
Zimbabwe A began their reply with 25 overs due to be bowled before the close of play, but their rather dismal over rate threatened to make this a day-night match. The Bangladeshi opening bowlers were soon supporting the Zimbabwe total with a spate of no-balls, and Sibanda drove Hossain handsomely through the covers to the boundary. But in the sixth over he was bowled by Hossain, a ball that just clipped the stumps, and Zimbabwe A were 18 for one. Two balls later and without addition, the new man Ebrahim groped at a ball outside the off stump and edged a catch to the keeper, Ghosh.
Duffin responded with a superb cover drive for four off Rasel, but otherwise the batsmen struggled for runs. Kuda Samunderu began nervously, but then placed Hossain through midwicket to the boundary, a sweetly timed stroke. Before long the day’s play was going into overtime, but fortunately the sun was shining brightly. Gradually the batsmen began to get the score moving again, mostly with well-placed ones and twos.
Haque came on to bowl, testing the batsmen. He beat Samunderu and rapped him on the pad with a ball that appeared to pop, and perhaps the batsman was unlucky that umpire Russell Tiffin raised his finger and gave him out lbw. Certainly the batsman left the arena very slowly and reluctantly. He made 15 and Zimbabwe A were 55 for three.
Ebrahim decided it was time for a night-watchman, and Cremer took his place, almost half an hour after the scheduled close of play with seven overs still to be bowled. Only two more were possible before the shadows began to cross the pitch and the batsmen accepted the offer to leave the field. Duffin was still there at the end with a well-played and responsible 22. The big question is whether he can, for once, turn this excellent start into a really big innings.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 John Ward)