Five in a row for Windies
Winning is becoming a habit for the West Indies cricket team again, irrespective of the strength of their opponents.
The Darren Sammy-led Windies outfit romped to their fifth consecutive Test victory when they ruthlessly rolled over lightweights Zimbabwe by nine wickets with two and a half days to spare in the first Test at Kensington Oval yesterday.
Following 2-0 series triumphs over New Zealand and Bangladesh last year, it was the first time in 25 years a West Indies team had achieved such an extended winning streak.
Recalled off-spinner Shane Shillingford was the architect of the victory with a career-best haul of six for 49 as Zimbabwe crashed to 107 all out in their second innings, after resuming at 41 for three overnight.
It left the West Indies, who had taken a 96-run lead when they made 307 in response to Zimbabwe’s first innings total of 211, with a mere 12 runs for victory.
Under the new regulation, lunch was delayed as the West Indies were afforded 15 minutes to complete the task.
However, they only got nine of the required runs before the compulsory break while losing opener Kieran Powell for six, caught in the gully off rookie pacer Tendai Chatara.
Chris Gayle (four not out) returned 40 minutes later, to hit the winning runs and formalize a 1-0 lead in the two-match series with the second Test beginning in Dominica next Wednesday.
Sammy, who wasn’t required to bowl in the Zimbabwe second innings, said the team achieved the goal of a fifth straight Test victory.
“We did exactly what we wanted to do. Everybody played their part really well . . . We have a chance to make it six in a row, something that hasn’t happened for over 20 years,” he said after the match.
The last time it was done was in 1988 during a seven-match unbeaten run against England and Australia.
Already with two wickets in the bag, Shillingford continued from where he left off the previous afternoon, getting the ball to bounce and turn sharply. He snared four more scalps to finish with match figures of nine for 107 and carry his overall tally to 38 in nine Tests.
The tall Dominican struck with the last ball of the day’s first over when the advancing Zimbabwe’s captain Brendan Taylor (six) pushed an off break to Powell at short leg.
Kemar Roach extracted the middle stump of night watchman Ray Price (seven) in the next over and a bemused Malcolm Waller was also snapped up by Powell at short leg for five to leave Zimbabwe in dire straits at 58 for six.
But Craig Ervine, who was dropped on four by Gayle at first slip off Shillingford and by Darren Bravo on 20 at third slip off the luckless Tino Best, propped up an end as wickets fell like ninepins around him.
Left-hander Ervine remained not out on 23 off 69 balls in 114 minutes, ensuring Zimbabwe avoided an innings defeat.
Wicket-keeper Regis Chakabva was bowled by Shillingford for six as he played down the wrong line to a straight delivery while Graeme Cremer, after hoisting Shillingford for a six over long-on in a brief knock of 14, was undone by a peach of a delivery.
Shillingford got one to bounce awkwardly and Cremer feathered it to wicket-keeper Denish Ramdin, who held a good catch.
Fast bowler Shannon Gabriel swiftly wrapped up the innings, firing out tailenders Kyle Jarvis and Chatara in the space of three balls to end with three wickets for 10 runs in 7.4 overs.
Jarvis, after lofting Shillingford for a straight six, was softened up by a blow to the ribs from a fast Gabriel delivery. He then sparred at a lifting out swinger to be caught by Ramdin while Chatara left his stumps exposed and Gabriel obliged with a full length delivery.
Losing captain Taylor conceded it was a tough Test and said their batting was disappointing.
“We let ourselves down . . . there weren’t a lot of positives apart from Kyle Jarvis,” he said. “Mawoyo did bat well but there were a few of us who got starts but didn’t carry on. We’ve got to find a way to combat the spin and their three-pronged pace attack.”
Man Of The Match Shillingford said his plan as a spinner is a simple one. “I tried to bowl a consistent line first up and then try to spin as much as possible and try to bowl in good areas.”