Zimbabwe on course for historic victory


Zimbabwe will go into the final day of their Test against Bangladesh needing seven wickets for victory after the bowlers responded to Brendan Taylor's bold declaration.

Zimbabwe will go into the final day of their Test against Bangladesh needing seven wickets for victory after the bowlers responded to Brendan Taylor's bold declaration by reducing the tourists to 112 for three.

Taylor became the second Zimbabwean in history – and the seventh overall – to hit a maiden Test century in his first match as captain, as Zimbabwe declared their second innings on 291 for five at tea on day four.

That left Bangladesh needing 375 to win from 123 overs, a feat which looked quite possible when their openers put on a brisk 65-run stand at the top of the order.

But Chris Mpofu bowled the dangerous Tamim Iqbal (43) and Kyle Jarvis took two wickets to give Zimbabwe every chance of winning their first match back in Test cricket after a six-year absence, with Bangladesh requiring a further 263 runs on day five.

19 years after Zimbabwe's first Test captain Dave Houghton hit a century on his country's debut, Taylor added his name to a niche list by going to three figures shortly before tea, before setting a target which was likely to induce some attacking shots from the Bangladeshi batsmen.

Taylor was unbeaten on 105 and Craig Ervine 35 not out from 55 deliveries, with both batsmen cranking through the gears in the second session after Tatenda Taibu had fallen shortly after lunch, and Taylor taking just 53 balls to score his second fifty after needing 117 for his first.

Taibu went to lunch on 53 not out, but added just six to his total before chipping Shafiul Islam to extra cover as he looked to clear the infield.

Although Ervine took a few overs to get his eye in having endured a wretched run of form since the World Cup, he then started finding the middle of the bat and went on to add 86 with Taylor in less than 18 overs to set up the declaration.

A wicketless opening session had put Zimbabwe back in firm control, with Taibu making most of the running as he breezed to an unbeaten half-century, while Taylor made slower progress to reach lunch on 46 not out from 112 deliveries.

After Zimbabwe's collapse late on day three had put the match back in the balance, the two batsmen came out with a far more positive mindset to re-establish control.

46 runs were taken in the opening 45 minutes as Taibu and Taylor worked the ball into the gaps and ran an unusually high number of threes.

Taibu was also quick on his feet to the spinners, taking a particular liking to Shakib Al Hasan as he hit the Bangladesh skipper out of the attack by regularly finding the boundary.

However Shakib was replaced by off-spinner Mahmudullah who bowled a more negative line from around the wicket to force Zimbabwe to be more patient, and the scoring slowed down dramatically over the last 45 minutes of the session with just nine runs coming from the last 10 overs.

A more productive second session led Taylor to stick the Bangladeshis back in, and his confidence in his bowlers was rewarded after a nervy, run-filled period when Mpofu came around the wicket to hit the top of Tamim's off stump as the left-hander shouldered arms.

Jarvis then gained his reward for another sharp spell of bowling when, having beaten the bat on numerous occasions, he finally found the edge of Imrul Kayes' bat to have the opener caught behind for 31.

The 22-year-old fast bowler wasn't finished yet, and also used the round-the-wicket approach to full effect as he sent Shariar Nafees' leg stump cartwheeling to set up an exciting final day at Harare Sports Club.

<b>Tristan Holme</b> in Harare