Zimbabwe impress on Test return

It had been a long time coming, but on Zimbabwe's first day of Test cricket in almost six years they did their utmost to prove that a return is not as premature as some have suggested.

It had been a long time coming, but on Zimbabwe's first day of Test cricket in almost six years they did their utmost to prove that a return to the five-day game is not as premature as some have suggested.

On an admittedly easy-paced pitch, the hosts finished on 264 for two on the opening day of their Test against Bangladesh at Harare Sports Club, with Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza hitting mature half-centuries.

Masakadza finished unbeaten on 89 and in sight of a second Test century, almost ten years to the day that he struck his first on Test debut against West Indies at this venue.

For the most part, Zimbabwe's batsmen showed more patience than the opposition bowlers on a pitch with much less life than had been expected. Bangladesh won the toss and inserted their hosts, but some wayward bowling at the start wrecked any hope of extracting early life.

Perhaps more worrying for the captain Shakib Al Hasan, the tourists failed to come up with a gameplan once they realised the pitch was flat and never bowled with much consistency.

If there was a plan from the fast bowlers it was to bang the ball in short, but a lack of pace left them ineffective as the batsmen either swayed out of the way or hooked with admirable control.

Zimbabwe's openers put on a century stand in the opening session, with Sibanda bringing up his half-century in the final over before lunch before Tino Mawoyo threw his wicket away two balls later.

The debutant had impressed as he moved to 43, but his inexperience showed when he went after a wide ball from Rubel Hossain and cut it straight down deep backward point's throat.

Sibanda (78) was equally guilty in his dismissal, giving up the chance of a maiden Test century when he flashed at a wide one and was caught behind as Rubel again made the breakthrough.

Zimbabwe had been flying along, with Masakadza and Sibanda both striking attractive sixes over long-on off Abdur Razzak, but new skipper Brendan Taylor took a more circumspect approach.

Just 73 runs came in the final session – compared to 191 in the first two – as the pitch slowed up and Zimbabwe became more patient.

Taylor went to stumps on 40 not out from 108 deliveries, having forged an unbeaten partnership of 102 with Masakadza.

International Cricket Council chief executive Haroon Lorgat was in attendance for Zimbabwe's first Test since September 2005, and handed out Test caps to Mawoyo, Craig Ervine, Kyle Jarvis and Brian Vitori.

Left-arm seamer Vitori had been a doubt for Zimbabwe after taking a nasty blow to the ribs in the nets on Tuesday, but recovered in time to take his place in the starting XI.

Jarvis was preferred to Keegan Meth, while Regis Chakabva and Prosper Utseya were the other players to miss out from the 14-man squad named on Monday.

Bangladesh allrounder Mahmudullah was passed fit to play, meaning that Junaid Siddique missed out.

<b>Tristan Holme at Harare Sports Club</b>