BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, CMC – The enterprising Shai Hope was left stranded agonisingly short of a third Test hundred as West Indies lost seven wickets in a dismal final session to be bowled out cheaply, giving minnows Zimbabwe the advantage on the opening day of the first Test here yesterday.
The right-handed Hope stroked a composed unbeaten 90 while opener Kieran Powell chipped in with 56 but the Caribbean side found it difficult to cope with Zimbabwe’s spinners on a turning track at Queens Sports Club and were humbled for 219 in their first innings.
Leg-spinner Graeme Cremer snatched four for 64 to reach 50 wickets in Tests while left-arm spinner Sean Williams prised out three for 20, as the Windies capitulated from a healthy position of 175 for three about half-hour after tea, to lose their seven wickets for a mere 44 runs in quick time.
In reply, Zimbabwe safely navigated the five overs available to reach 19 without loss, 200 runs behind heading into today’s second day.
Solomon Mire was unbeaten on 17 while Hamilton Masakadza was yet to score.
Opting to bat first, West Indies suffered an early setback when vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite lasted 22 balls for his three before getting a thin edge behind off seamer Kyle Jarvis with 14 runs on the board.
And they were in further trouble in the third over following the hour mark when Kyle Hope was adjudged caught at the wicket on review for 16, giving debutant all-rounder Mire his first wicket in Tests at 35 for two.
However, Powell and Shai Hope then came together in a key 75-run, third wicket stand which guided the visitors to 65 without further loss at lunch.
Unbeaten on 25 at the break, left-hander Powell moved into the 30s in the third over followng the resumption with a top-edged pull for four off Jarvis before entering the 40s with a sweetly-timed cover drive for four off a full toss from the same bowler, a few overs later.
He raised his half-century – his first in 13 innings since his return to international cricket earlier this year – just before the hour mark of the session with a streaky four past the keeper off pacer Chris Mpofu.
But he lasted just 14 more balls before edging a sweep at Cremer onto his pad and into the hands of Craig Ervine at short leg, to depart in the second over after the drinks break after facing 133 deliveries and striking six fours.
Hope, on 19 at lunch, then took charge, anchoring a second successive half-century stand by adding 64 for the fourth wicket with Roston Chase who made 31.
All told, Hope faced 201 deliveries and counted seven fours and a six – a clean blow over mid-wicket off Sikander Raza.
He was forced to ride his luck, however, suriving a chance to Masakadza at slip off Cremer on 41 and then being acquitted on 51 by DRS after being given out caught at slip off Sikander Raza, in the final over before tea.
Together, he and chase steered the Windies to tea at 154 for three but things fell apart in the first hour, with the wickets of Chase and Jermaine Blackwood (1) in quick succession.
Chase, unbeaten on 20 at the break, gave Ervine his second of four catches close in when he failed to keep down one from off-spinner Sikandar Raza. He faced 64 balls and counted three fours.
Three overs later, Cremer dragged Blackwood from his crease and had him stumped, leaving the Windies on 179 for five.
Hope and wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich (11) attempted a repair job in a 23-run, sixth wicket stand which took their side past the 200-run mark.
But Dowrich edged Williams to Masakadza at slip at the start of the final hour leading to a swift decline which saw the last five wickets tumble for 17 runs.
Hope, on 56 at tea, continued to carry the innings as he marched towards three figures but lacked support.
Captain Jason Holder was adjudged lbw to Williams for eight at 212 for seven and tail-enders Devendra Bishoo, Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel all failed to score, lasting a total of nine balls, as Cremer and Williams clinically mopped up the tail.