Streak puts Zimbabwe on brink of finest hour

Zimbabwe 131 & 563-9 dec West Indies 347 & 42-1

Zimbabwe emphatically positioned themselves for the most remarkable and significant victory of their brief time in Test cricket on the fourth day of the second and final Test against the West Indies yesterday.

Zimbabwe emphatically positioned themselves for the most remarkable and significant victory of their brief time in Test cricket on the fourth day of the second and final Test against the West Indies yesterday.

They amassed 563 for 9 in their second innings, the highest total in the 54 Tests since they were granted the status in 1992, and confidently declared, challenging their dispirited opponents to score 348 and giving their own bowlers a minimum of 74 overs to secure the win.

In the 15.2 overs available of the 24 scheduled for the remainder of the fourth day before murky light halted play, the captain, Heath Streak, removed the opener Daren Ganga for five and the West Indies were relieved to close on 42 for 1.

Such a favourable situation was achieved against daunting odds, on and off the field. The hosts suffered a humiliating innings defeat in the first Test and have had to do without the world-class batsman Andy Flower through injury. They have also been distracted by strained relations between the players and the Zimbabwe Cricket Union and racial infighting within the administration.

It took a 17-year-old, Hamilton Mazakadsa, one of two black schoolboys in the team, to inspire their fightback. His unbeaten 115 on the third day made him the youngest batsman to achieve a century on his debut. He was an early victim yesterday of the left-arm spinner Neil McGarrell after adding only four but the momentum he created on the previous day was built on by Streak and Andy Blignaut in a 154-run seventh-wicket partnership that included four sixes and 17 fours.

Streak, who was unbeaten on 79 when he declared, played the support role to the clean-hitting, left-handed Blignaut who belted three sixes and 12 fours in his 92.

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