Zimbabwe’s second innings was almost a carbon copy of their dismal first innings effort as they collapsed to defeat inside three days in Dominica. A promising start from the openers, making the most of some wayward opening spells from the West Indians, was quickly squandered upon the introduction of spin as again they displayed a poor technique and played the sweep shot poorly against the bouncing ball. Shane Shillingford and Marlon Samuels matched their day one hauls of five and three wickets respectively. The only difference was that Zimbabwe managed 34 less runs this time than they did first time around.
For the West Indies, the win gives them their sixth successive one in Test cricket and also their third successive two-nil series whitewash following the ones against New Zealand and Bangladesh.
The home side declared on their overnight 381 for eight following a slightly delayed start and were made to work early on. Hamilton Maskadza - promoted to open in place of Tino Mawoyo, who spent a large part of yesterday off the field - and Vusi Sibanda scored freely against some inaccurate bowling from Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel. However, Masakadza, almost immediately after successfully overturning an ‘out’ decision, found himself in the exact opposite position when West Indies reviewed a ‘not out’ one and were vindicated when replays showed that he had indeed gloved the ball through to Denesh Ramdin.
Brendan Taylor and Sibanda then batted merrily on for a further seven overs before the wheels started to come off. Taylor gave Kieran Powell at short-leg his umpteenth catch of the series as he was caught on the crease by Shillingford, while Sibanda self-destructed for the second time in the match. In the first innings he had driven a full-toss to mid-on whereas today his demise was even more inexcusable, slogging across a straight ball from Darren Sammy.
Sibanda’s efforts in this series perhaps best sum up that of the bulk of Zimbabwe’s batsmen. He has reached double figures in all four innings but has a highest score of just 35. He looks at ease while at the crease, displaying a sound technique and playing some pleasing strokes, but appears to lack the mental capacity to play the match-defining innings. Taylor is another in an almost identical boat. Zimbabwe expect better from their captain.
The struggles of Craig Ervine in the Tests have been much more fundamental. Two times he has played down the wrong line of innocuous deliveries, whereas today he followed a turning ball, guiding it to a diving Chris Gayle at slip. Any credit that he built up during the limited-overs series has quickly evaporated.
With Ervine gone, Zimbabwe had lost half their side and were still in double figures. Sean Williams had come and gone, guilty of another soft dismissal, top-edging a poorly-executed cut shot to point, while Mawoyo’s stay at the crease was short and not very sweet - his second ball inside edged to Sammy at leg-slip. Graeme Cremer played nicely for a while and has looked among the more technically accomplished of Zimbabwe’s batsmen during the series. However, when he was eighth man out the writing was on the wall.
The end came quickly. Marlon Samuels continued his useful habit of taking cheap wickets by having Kyle Jarvis and Tendai Chatara caught from successive deliveries. Zimbabwe were all out for just 141 and West Indies had won by an innings and 65 runs.
It would be easy to lose sight of Shane Shillingford’s excellence among the dissecting of Zimbabwe’s batting technique and even the lingering question of their continued Full Member status. However, that would be unjust. Shillingford bowled quite exceptionally on a pitch, it must be said, that offered plenty of encouragement. He not only found spin, in both directions, but also sharp bounce from a high action that now has no discernible kink following the remedial work he underwent in early 2011. Indeed, if Zimbabwe’s capitulation here had been a one-off, then such was his excellence that his match figures of 10 for 93 would have been put down less to their ineptitude and more to his brilliance.
Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, their poor showing will give yet more ammunition to those asking just why the likes of Ireland and even Afghanistan are denied Full Member status when they continue to cling onto it.
They do, of course, have a plenty of mitigating factors. Due to the unstable political and economic situation in the country, they do lose players overseas - Gary Ballance being the latest and most obvious example - but then so do Ireland. They have also been criminally starved of Test matches over the past year, while the efforts of the administrators at Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) - why weren’t the batting and bowling coaches accompanying the team in the Caribbean? - leave a lot to be desired.
The players should by no means shoulder all of the blame. It will be interesting to see what, if any, comments departing coach Alan Butcher has about the running of cricket in the country when the returns to the UK.
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