Captain Joe Root won the toss and inserted Zimbabwe to bat on a lush looking Lord’s green deck.
Assuming the mantle from James Anderson and Stuart Broad, opening bowlers Sam Curran and Chris Woakes (2-58) both struck in their opening spell but confident opening batsman Huxley Modiba breezed a brisk 45.
We struck twice almost immediately after lunch, to leave the visitors 104-5 but Patrick Mohamed provided Byron Teixeira with solid support in a stand of 76. Just as frustration grew amongst our players, the disciplined Mohamed (25) played an ill-disciplined shot off Ben Stokes (2-35) to be caught by Jack Leach and end the partnership.
Sam Curran then led the way as we ripped through the lower order. That included a sensational around the wicket inswinging delivery that sent Baxter McLean’s (0) middle stump cartwheeling!
At 201-9 things were looking good but last man Taylor Clark (26) combined with the imperious Teixeira (141*) to not only get the latter to a fully deserved Test ton at the home of cricket but also lift the score to 280. Eventually Curran (5-79) terminated the innings and in doing so, joined Teixeira on the honours board.
Our opening duo of Rory Burns and Dom Sibley survived until close but Burns (5) fell when he nicked a snorter from Denzel Thomson, the first ball of the second over on the second day.
Despite some seriously threatening bowling from Thomson, Sibley and in particular Dawid Malan, made hay. The duo propelled the score from 18-1 to 106, then…a sliding doors moment! Malan, who had struck the innocuous looking Taylor for four consecutive fours, was keen for a second run following an overthrow. Sibley however was still on the ground following a desperate dive. A sensational throw from Subhaan Redlingbuys saw Malan short of his ground… just! From there, the tide truly turned. Root (3), Ollie Pope (4) and Jos Buttler (2) all fell in single figures. Like Malan (52), Sibley (53) passed fifty but couldn’t go on. It was left to Ben Stokes (52) to raise the score but he too was dismissed in the fifties. Woakes (6) and Mark Wood (0) didn’t last long but Curran (28) applied himself well alongside last man Leach (9*) for a useful last wicket stand (Not quite as useful as Zimbabwe’s!) to just about keep us in the match. Dismissed for 226 (Having been 106-1!) meant that Zimbabwe had claimed a healthy first innings lead of 54. Thomson (3-35) bowled with venom meanwhile Clark (3-66) fought back after a chastening opening spell.
Second time around for Zimbabwe, opener Brodie Coetzer (2) fell cheaply again but Modiba (40) made it into the forties once more. Mark Wood finally got in on the act by accounting for the Zimbabwe opener and it would be the impressive Wood (3-29) who claimed the prize wicket of first innings centurion Teixeira (19) courtesy of a review. Skipper Joe Root then immediately brought Curran back into the attack and the first innings hero duly obliged by dismantling Samuel Walsh’s (21) stumps with the first delivery of the following over.
Curran (2-44), having had an LBW overturned in Zimbabwe’s favour, then benefited as Root used DRS successfully for the second time in the innings. Woakes (3-37) claimed a couple more wickets late in the day, including McLean to complete a pair. Numbers three to seven all got started but were dismissed for scores between 10 and 22. Ryan Cynthia and Kamal Johnson (15*) resisted to lift the away side from 134-8 to 156-8 at the close. That meant the lead was up to 210 with the thrilling Test match finely poised heading into the third day.
Captain Root continued his golden touch by throwing the ball to spinner Leach first thing on day three. Five balls later and number eight Cynthia (17) continued the theme of getting in… but getting out!
There would be no sense of deja vu as Leach (2-16) knocked over last man Taylor‘s (0) stumps in his next over. Zimbabwe had collapsed from 56-1 to 165 all out. A not dissimilar collapse to our own. It all meant that we required 220 to win in front of an excited full house!
The run chase commenced and Burns played a couple of glorious shots but was caught and bowled for only 12 when failing to execute a hook shot. That completed a disappointing showing with the bat for the Surrey stalwart. Sibley (10) and Malan laid the foundations for the innings once again, reaching 48-1, before the former nicked behind off Clark. Root, who had captained, caught and reviewed magnificently, was out for a duck, failing to overturn an LBW decision!
Having dismissed Sibley for ten, Clark (2-27) did the same to Stokes. All the while Malan looked as good as he had first time around. However, on 41, he edged behind to wicketkeeper Cynthia off Johnson (1-59). That left us 80-5 and staring an ignominious defeat down the barrel!
Messrs Pope and Buttler set about repairing the damage and looked to have swung momentum our way. With the partnership up to a promising 43, Pope (22) missed a straight delivery from the innocuous looking medium pace of Modiba. We found ourselves six wickets down with a daunting 96 runs still required to win. By lunch, we’d chalked another ten runs off that total.
One ball after the interval and with one run to his name, Sam Curran was back where he’d come from with the score 133-7. He may be a precocious talent but it was an inexplicably inexcusable and immature shot with Buttler so well set. Woakes was then caught and bowled by that man Modiba (3-18) off the first delivery that he faced!
Mark Wood clung on alongside the superb Buttler but, having compiled thirty together and the very next ball after the gloveman had brought up his half-century, Buttler (50) got a leading edge off the excellent Thomson (3-49) and was caught at mid-wicket. We were still 55 runs away from victory!
Wood (20*) and Leach hinted at fingernails being bitten with a last wicket stand of 23 but last man Leach (14) was lured into playing an ambitious shot and no review was going to save him from being LBW. 187 all out! Zimbabwe’s first innings last wicket stand had come back to bite us as we succumbed to a bitterly disappointing 32-run defeat. The first innings run out of Dawid Malan was surely another crucial moment in the game.
Huge respect to Zimbabwe. The Test was fairly evenly balanced but Teixeira’s ton made the difference and they made crucial moments go their own way. We can learn a lot from that. It’s onto Headingley for the second and final Test!
Disclaimer: Cricket 19 and previous games’ match write-ups were a big part of my cricket blog. I haven’t been playing regularly for a while but you’ll have to endure the odd post from time to time now… sorry!