Sikandar Raza cut through West Indies to register his first five-wicket haul in professional cricket, but Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich combined to put on an unbroken 144-run eighth-wicket stand to give the visitors a 48-run first innings lead at stumps on day three.
After Kieran Powell fell for 90, West Indies’ middle order collapsed to Raza’s offspin as the visitors slipped to 230 for 7, still needing 96 to wipe out the deficit. But they were put back in front with a stand characterized by controlled aggression. Dowrich was batting on a career-best 75, while Holder had constructed an attractive unbeaten 71.
Raza’s success aside, Zimbabwe had little else to cheer. A stiff ankle stopped Solomon Mire from bowling for most of the day, Graeme Cremer struggled for rhythm and Tendai Chisoro bowled well without any luck. The hosts missed five chances in the field and an injudicious use of the DRS ultimately allowed Holder and Dowrich’s partnership to flourish.
Zimbabwe used their last review attempting to reverse an lbw decision against Powell despite the fact that he’d been struck well outside off. When Raza had a plumb leg before shout, with Holder on 11, turned down by umpire Kumar Dharmasena, they could do nothing about it. As it turned out, Holder didn’t offer another chance.
Dowrich was the first to fifty, off 85 balls, and Holder followed him soon after, off 92. Their stand was just the third in West Indies history to pass 100 for the eighth wicket. As the partnership flourished, even Raza came in for some damage. Dowrich drove him repeatedly through the covers, while Holder stepped out to clout a huge six over long on.
Apart from those boundaries and a couple of tired long hops late in the day, Raza’s control of line and length was exemplary and his repeated strikes lifted Zimbabwe. They were in need of some pepping up when Powell and nightwatchman Devendra Bishoo stretched their partnership beyond fifty on Tuesday morning. With Cremer struggling and edges flying between fielders or dropping in front of them in the first session, Powell eased past fifty from 133 deliveries, and slowly began to assert himself.
When a chance eventually did come, via the top edge of a Bishoo slog-sweep, it was put down by Brendan Taylor at midwicket – the first of five opportunities that Zimbabwe let slip through. It was left to Raza to make the breakthrough all on his own, drawing a false shot from Bishoo and holding on to a regulation caught-and-bowled chance.
Offering generous flight, Raza struck again soon after when an offbreak kept a little low to peg Kyle Hope, playing back, in front of middle stump. A desperate review couldn’t save him, and West Indies went to the first drinks break at 135 for 3. When Powell was granted another life on 85 – having already been dropped on 11 on Monday – Zimbabwe’s frustration began to show. But the new ball, taken half an hour before lunch, changed the complexion of the session.
Chris Mpofu got the hard new ball to leap alarmingly as Powell fended one to the diving Craig Ervine at gully to fall 10 short of his fourth Test century. The wicket put the pep back in Zimbabwe’s step.
Jermaine Blackwood played too early at a delivery that bounced with a puff of dust and broke sharply in to him, chipping a catch to Cremer at midwicket. When Raza beat Shai Hope’s defence to rattle his off stump for his fifth wicket, he set off on a celebratory run.
This was the first five-for from a Zimbabwean spinner at Queens Sports Club since Ray Price’s 5 for 199 against West Indies in 2003, but the celebrations was short-lived. The early lbw aside, Holder didn’t give Zimbabwe a sniff and Dowrich was similarly limpet-like.
Bad balls were inevitably carted to the boundary, and Zimbabwe wilted noticeably in the afternoon sun as the pair put on just the third 100-run eighth wicket stand in West Indies Test history. They ended the day with the all-time eighth wicket West Indies record – the 148 put on by Jimmy Adams and Franklyn Rose against Zimbabwe in 2000 – and a healthy lead within their sights.