Man on fire

Off-spinner Shane Shillingford destroyed the Zimbabweans.
Off-spinner Shane Shillingford destroyed the Zimbabweans.

ROSEAU – Shane Shillingford would perhaps like to travel the world with the Windsor Park track in tow.

He has now taken 20 wickets in two matches at his Roseau, Dominica home ground and today his five for 24 led West Indies to a series clinching innings and 65 runs victory over a hapless Zimbabwe who were routed for 141.

The victory meant the West Indies had won six straight Tests for the first time since their glory days of the 1980s, having earlier won two Tests each away and at home against Bangladesh and New Zealand respectively.

On resumption today the West Indies declared during a 15-minute rain delay in the morning, and a solid start from the Zimbabwe batsmen was a hugely misleading prelude to what was to follow. Once again, Zimbabwe failed to sustain a promising phase of play long enough against a superior opposition. Shillingford was their nemesis again, picking up wickets at regular intervals with unsettling bounce and sharp turn.

The strategy for West Indies was simple, having successfully employed it in the first Test and the first innings in Dominica. The spinners, Shillingford, brought on in the 13th over, and Marlon Samuels, who picked up six wickets in the game, got the ball to turn, and more crucially bounce, from the off stump, surrounded the Zimbabwe batsmen with close-in fielders, who snapped up what came their way or had their team-mates in the outfield ready for opportunities borne out of a desperate attempt to find a release.

Vusi Sibanda and Brendan Taylor countered that pressure temporarily by sweeping Shillingford, Sibanda even struck him for six over deep square leg, but it was only a matter of time before the spitting bounce that proved Zimbabwe’s undoing throughout the series returned to trouble them. Taylor was struck on the glove when Shillingford held his length back and caught at short leg.

Taylor’s wicket marked the start of the spinners coming to dominate the innings, but Tino Best and Darren Sammy did their bit to end Zimbabwe’s early resistance. Best was guilty of bowling too short, and Sibanda had cashed in, slashing hard through the off side and even driving handsomely for boundaries when the ball was pitched up, as he did against Shannon Gabriel. But Best went round the wicket to Hamilton Masakadza, who was also set, got him to seemingly glove one down the leg side, reviewed the “not out” decision and got it overturned. A possible reason for the third umpire to reverse the original call was a change in rotation of the ball as it reached Masakadza’s glove, indicating there may have been contact.

Minutes earlier, in the same over, Masakadza had successfully reviewed another caught-behind decision, this time having been given out, though the evidence, in the absence of Hot Spot, was again inconclusive.

Just two balls after Taylor had been sent back, Sibanda played a rash shot across the line to Sammy to be trapped in front, his failed review confirming the ball would have clipped the bails.

With the top order out of the way, Shillingford and Samuels eased past those that came after. Sean Williams got a top-edge while trying to play a cut against Shillingford, to be caught at point, and the capitulation picked up speed following the lunch break. Craig Ervine survived 34 balls but was caught brilliantly by Chris Gayle diving to his left at slip to pouch an edge with one hand. The extra bounce in the track brought the backward short leg into play and Malcolm Waller found that fielder when he tried to work Samuels away off the back foot. Shillingford had, six overs earlier, dismissed Tino Mawoyo, forced to bat at No.7 after missing a good part of the second day’s play, in the same region.

With Waller, perhaps Zimbabwe’s best batsman in the limited-overs series this tour, back in the pavilion, West Indies required just four more overs to wrap up the innings. Graeme Cremer’s stand-out shot was a six over long-on with his eyes staring at the ground at the point of, as well as after, impact, but inside-edged a catch towards midwicket trying the same stroke to give Shillingford his fifth wicket. It was also Shillingford’s tenth for the match and 19th for the series – the best returns in a two-match series for a West Indies bowler, going past Courtney Walsh’s 16 in New Zealand in 1994-95.

Paul Jarvis and Tendai Chatara lasted just two deliveries, Samuels hastening the end of a mismatch that continued West Indies’ best run of consecutive victories in Tests since 1988.

Not surprisingly Shillingford was named Man-of-the Match and Man-of-the-Series.

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