| Andy Blignaut in action during his innings of 91 in the first Test against the West Indies at the Harare Sports Club on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Harare: Heath Streak scored his maiden Test century to put Zimbabwe on top on the second day of the first Test against West Indies on Wednesday.
The home side, who chose to bat, declared their first innings closed on 507 for nine. The West Indies were 11 without loss when bad light and rain ended play 25.2 overs early.
Zimbabwe captain Streak scored an undefeated 127 in almost six hours at the crease in which he faced 246 balls and hit 12 fours. Streak and Andy Blignaut, whose 91 was a run short of his career-best score, shared a partnership of 168, a record for Zimbabwe’s eighth wicket.
Blignaut faced 126 balls in his three hours at the crease, hitting eight fours. Fidel Edwards took five for 133.Streak, who was 16 not out overnight, blunted the West Indies’ attack with resolute batting, while the more aggressive Blignaut blazed three boundaries from the first nine balls he faced before showing the application he has lacked in other innings.
West Indies took the new ball in the third over of the day, which Zimbabwe began on 284 for six. But the home side’s lower middle order showed more grit than the frontline batsmen, and the tourists’ hopes of ending the innings quickly faded as the session wore on.
Tatenda Taibu took his overnight 75 not out to 83 before driving at a delivery from Edwards and being bowled off the edge in the 11th over of the day.
Taibu showed impressive determination in his career-best 83, and his effort was a major factor in Zimbabwe’s recovery from 154 for five. He shared a stand of 81 with Streak, batted for more than three hours, faced 186 balls and hit nine fours.
Streak and Blignaut kept West Indies wicketless until the eighth over after tea, when Blignaut drove hard at a ball from fast bowler Vasbert Drakes and was brilliantly caught by a diving Chris Gayle in the gully.
Ray Price was the last man out before the declaration when Edwards trapped him in front for two with a full toss to earn his fifth wicket.
The visitors bowled a tighter line and length than on the first day, but rarely threatened the batsmen on a flat pitch.
They were also hampered by a lower back sprain to fast bowler Jerome Taylor, who did not take the field on Wednesday.
Streak’s century took 91 innings to achieve, but all the Zimbabwe captain wanted to talk about was the support he received from his team mates.
“I thought it was a fantastic effort by Stuart Matsikenyeri (57) and Tatenda Taibu (83) yesterday and going into today, and the partnership between Andy Blignaut (91) and myself was also great,” Streak said.
“It’s great to get into a position where we put the pressure on the West Indies.”
Streak and Blignaut have been at it before as well. Two years ago, the pair put on a record 154 for the seventh wicket against the same opposition at the same venue. Blignaut was at the crease for more than three hours and Streak for just less than six. They then shared the new ball when West Indies began their reply.
“It was a concern that we were using up so much energy batting,” Streak said. “I didn’t want to have to bowl too much, but we also wanted one or two breakthroughs.” (Reuters)