| Umpires Simon Taufel (left), Billy Bowden (right), Match Referee Gundappa Viswanath and West Indies captain Brian Lara watch Harare Sports Club groundsman Robin Brown work on a test hole drilled into the pitch. A practice ball was accidentally rolled into the wicket, forcing staff to augur out the indentation and replace it with another section of the pitch. (Reuters)
Harare: West Indies captain Brian Lara fell cheaply on the third day of the first Test against Zimbabwe here on Thursday and the tourists suddenly found themselves struggling to close a huge first innings gap.
The West Indies were making a positive response to Zimbabwe’s first innings 507 for nine declared when Lara came to the wicket at a respectable 127 for two, replacing Wavell Hinds who made a forceful 68, his 11th 50 in Tests.
But when Lara was caught on the boundary for 29, his side immediately found themselves on the back foot and at the close they were 241 for six, still 266 in arrears.
During the last hour of play, Zimbabwean spectators at the Harare Sports Ground were even relishing the possibility of getting the tourists out for 307 or less and enforcing the follow-on.
Lara appeared to be in sparkling form in his first Test on this ground, lashing Andy Blignaut in particular to the boundary, but he decided to take on spinner Ray Price, dancing down the wicket to hoist him towards the sight-screen.
But Blessing Mahwire made ground from mid-on and took a fine running catch.
The Caribbeans were 179 for three and their situation worsened when Darren Ganga, who had reached 79 for his sixth half century in Tests, was bowled by Mahwire and Ramnaresh Sarwan was out leg before to Price after never looking comfortable.
Ganga’s dismissal was unfortunate. A ball bounced off his bat to the ground, then onto his elbow and from there dropped in slow motion onto the stumps.
Ridley Jacobs made only five runs before giving a catch to Mark Vermeulen off Price, a pad-bat decision by Billy Bremner.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul was holding fort at stumps on Thursday with 19 to his name, while Vasbert Drakes was yet to open his account.
On Friday, the Caribbeans will mainly be looking to the left-handed Chanderpaul who is known to thrive in these challenging situations. Drakes is no mug with the bat either, and the two will have to weather the second new ball if the visitors hope to avoid the follow-on.
It was Zimbabwe’s day and if they can hold on to the form they displayed on Thursday they could even have West Indies on the rack for the next two days.
Before the day's play, a freak accident delayed proceedings for two hours. A practice ball rolled onto the pitch, right under a roller and became embedded. It required some specialised equipment borrowed from the neighbouring Royal Harare Golf Club to make repairs.