With Cremer finishing the innings with two wickets in two balls, Hope was denied the opportunity to score a third Test century in as many matches. © Getty Images

With Cremer finishing the innings with two wickets in two balls, Hope was denied the opportunity to score a third Test century in as many matches. © Getty Images

Zimbabwe’s spinners stole the show, taking eight wickets between themselves to bundle out Windies for 219, on the first day of the first Test at Queens Sports Club on Saturday (October 21).

Windies lost their last seven wickets for 45 runs, with Graeme Cremer, the Zimbabwe captain, picking up 4 for 64 and Sean Williams snapping up 3 for 20. It was a spin-friendly surface, but there were no demons in the pitch as Shai Hope showed with a gritty 90 not out.

Shai, who came in at No. 4, wasn’t able to get a century, though, as the last three batsmen were dismissed for ducks in the space of six balls. Only three other batsmen reached double figures, with Kieran Powell’s 56 the next-highest knock.

Zimbabwe then made a positive start to their reply, with Hamilton Masakadza and Solomon Mire, the debutant, carrying them to the close of play on 19 without loss.

“When they were 170-odd for 3 we were not expecting them to be bowled out 45 runs later,” said Williams.

Windies were already two wickets down after Kyle Jarvis and Mire, the seamers, had struck, and were battling to inject any momentum into their innings as Chris Mpofu bowled a couple of stifling spells up front.

A 75-run stand for the third wicket between Powell and Shai led Windies’ recovery, but Zimbabwe remained patient and never let the scoring accelerate. That allowed the hosts to take control once again when Cremer made the breakthrough, as Powell was brilliantly caught at short leg by Craig Ervine.

Shai added 64 for the fourth wicket with Roston Chase, but the collapse began after tea when Chase was dismissed by Sikandar Raza, with Ervine completing the second of his four catches.

Jermaine Blackwood was superbly stumped by Regis Chakabva as Cremer returned soon after, and the remaining wickets went down in a flurry as Williams took 3 for 2 in four overs.

“Between Cremer and I, we just tried to keep the squeeze on as much as possible, especially to Hope because we knew his hundred was coming up and we didn’t want him to have any strike,” said Williams.

With Cremer finishing the innings with two wickets in two balls, Shai was denied the opportunity to score a third Test century in as many matches.

Although Zimbabwe closed the day trailing by just 200 runs, Hope said there had been mitigating factors for the low total. “Honestly, it was a very slow outfield. So that 219 could easily have been closer to 300,” he said. “When I was batting I hit quite a few balls through the gap, but scoring was never easy. (219) was under par, and under what we were expecting, but I still think we have a chance.”

That said, Zimbabwe have noticeably more muscle in the batting department this time. They have handed Mire, the allrounder who moved back to Zimbabwe from Australia earlier this year, a first Test cap, and welcomed back Brendan Taylor and Jarvis into the fold. If Zimbabwe want to usher a brave new era, they’ve taken a step in the right direction on Saturday