|Scorecard:||Zimbabwe A v Bangladeshis|
The weather was cloudy for much of the day, but there were spells of sun and it stayed dry. The pitch was, as usual at this venue, slow, and it took a bit of spin. The outfield was heavy after rain and with the ball not coming on to the bat well, scoring would not be too easy.
The Bangladeshis began cautiously against Test bowlers Travis Friend and Douglas Hondo, and Hannan Sarkar was dropped off a difficult chance by wicketkeeper Alester Maregwede off Hondo when he had 2. Then Shahriar Hossain began to find his touch and played some handsome drives, although he was let off a low catch to mid-on when 11. This was Zimbabwean hospitality at its best.
Sarkar thought it tarnished, though, when he chased a ball from Hondo and was given out caught down the leg side for 5. Umpire Justice Tapfumaneyi, who has caused considerable controversy by his willingness to send batsmen on their way, was the official responsible. The new-ball bowling was rather inconsistent; Friend did get his direction right but bounced three balls over the batsmens heads for wides.
Habibul Bashar announced himself with a magnificent pull for four off Friend, but he had made 10 before he too fell to the finger of umpire Tapfumaneyi, adjudged lbw when it appeared the ball was clearing the top of the stumps. As if this were not enough, Rajin Saleh (3) was quickly given out lbw to a ball that appeared to be going down leg side Brent the bowler, Tapfumaneyi the umpire. Bangladesh were 46 for three.
Opener Shahriar Hossain was playing soundly, but his partners were not finding it easy to settle. Mohammad Ashraful made 11 before he tried to hook Friend, returning for a second spell, and skyed a catch to midwicket; 83 for five. Al-Sahariar, a former opening batsman now in the middle order, survived until lunch when the Bangladeshis were 89 for four (Hossain 47, Al-Sahariar 0).
In the first over after lunch, without addition, Al-Sahariar edged a ball from Friend and Maregwede had almost a carbon copy of the catch he dropped early on, and this time he took it, diving low to his right. Khaled Mashud followed, facing 11 balls without scoring and then driving, perhaps in frustration, at Hondo and edging a catch to the keeper. The tourists were now 90 for six.
A useful stand followed between Hossain and Manjarul Islam Rana, the spin bowler, not to be confused with the unrelated pace bowler Monjurul Islam. The left-handed Islam looked much more comfortable than most of his seniors and batted solidly until Hossains monumental innings came to an end. On 75 he cut uppishly at Trevor Gripper and hit a low catch to backward point. He faced 174 balls in 230 minutes and hit eight fours; 137 for six.
Islam now began to open out with some aggressive strokes and the Zimbabwe A spinners took rather a pasting. Finally he took one liberty too many and was bowled by Gavin Ewing for 40 as he leapt down the pitch and took a rustic swing to leg; 161 for eight. Alamgir Kabir and Anwar Hossain mixed dour defence with occasional heaves at the ball and survived until tea, when the tourists were 181 for eight (Kabir 14, Hossain 7).
Kabir, trying to swing Ewing for six over midwicket, holed out near the boundary for 20, and finally Tareq Aziz was caught at the wicket off Blessing Mahwire for 8, leaving Alamgir Kabir not out with 10. Hondo, underbowled, finished with the best figures of three for 19 off 9 overs, while Friend and Ewing took two wickets each.
The Zimbabwe A innings opened with some pacy bowling from Kabir and much raucous shouting and appealing from the Bangladeshi team. Vusi Sibanda once again sold his wicket far too cheaply, trying to hook Kabir and lobbing a gentle catch to midwicket; 8 for one.
Richie Sims as perhaps lucky not to be given out caught at the wicket off Aziz by umpire Tapfumaneyi, which did not improve the mood of the Bangladeshis. However, in the next over, perhaps bothered by conscience, Sims played a weak shot outside off stump to Kabir and this time the keeper s catch was upheld.
The Bangladeshi seam bowling was aggressive and accurate, and the home batsmen lacked the patience to wait for suitable opportunities. Stuart Matsikenyeri tried to work Kabir to leg, and instead found a leading edge carrying gently to mid-off. He failed to score, and Alester Maregwede had only 2 when he was caught down the leg side by the diving wicketkeeper Mashud; however, it may only have come off his thigh pad. Zimbabwe A were 25 for four, all four to Kabir.
As far as noise on the field, raucous appeals and childish celebrations at the fall of a wicket were concerned, though, the Bangladeshis took these to new heights or depths. Enthusiastic they undoubtedly were, but they certainly took this element to new extremes.
Amid the disasters, Trevor Gripper was playing a quiet, sound innings which should have ensured his place in the final team for the First Test. He mixed sound defence with an occasional classic drive, and it was noticeable how he concentrated on playing down the V. Douglas Marillier (26) finally gave him some sound support at the other end, scoring 26 off 34 balls with positive batting until he misjudged a slower ball from Anwar Hossain and was given out lbw; 60 for five.
Gavin Ewing stayed with Gripper until the close, finishing with 7 against his partners composed 25. It should be clear to the Zimbabwe players that Bangladesh are likely to prove serious opponents in the Test series.
(Article: Copyright © 2004 John Ward)