Following a 32-run defeat at Lords in the first Test, we headed north to Leeds in search of redemption. On a much more batting friendly track, we lost the toss and to the surprise of nobody… were invited to field first!
Opening batsmen Huxley Modiba, dismissed in the forties in both innings at Lords, passed fifty this time, in an opening stand of 114 with Brodie Coetzer. Modiba (56) was first to fall, trapped LBW by Ben Stokes (1-59). Coetzer (74) demonstrated his ability following two single figure failures down south.
Denzel Thomson and Lords centurion Byron Teixeira (57) combined for 97 but there would be no second century of the series for Teixeira. From 240-3, Zimbabwe would close day one on 329-4 with one hand firmly on the series trophy.
We claimed early wickets on the second day but all the while Thomson batted on… and on! The right-hander brought up a magnificent ton in front of an appreciative Yorkshire crowd.
Subhaan Redlingbuys (44) and Baxter McLean (21), who’d registered a pair in the first Test, provided able support. Captain Joe Root (1-14) curtailed McLean’s entertain… ment! Speedster Mark Wood then lured Thomson (147) into an ugly slash to draw the curtain on his 342-ball epic. He’d left well, defended well and chosen when to play his shots. Hopefully our batsmen were paying attention!
Wood (2-66) then had Kamal Johnson (7) caught behind by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler. Six catches in the innings for Buttler probably glossed over some sloppy glovework throughout the 138.1 overs! Chris Woakes (1-71), Sam Curran (3-112) and Jack Leach (2-100), were the other wicket takers as the visitors posted 443.
So it was that after totals of just 226 and 187 in the first Test, we’d have to overhaul 443, likely bat last and somehow come away with a series levelling victory!
Fortunately, opening batsmen Rory Burns and Dom Sibley were in the mood. The pair left balls (You know, like Test match opening batsmen should!), defended deliveries and stroked the odd beautiful boundary. Both batsmen benefited from a couple of edges not going where they might have on another day… but for the most part, were in control. The duo succeeded in bringing up a century opening stand and only when the total had reached 137 did a leading edge from Sibley (62) land in the hands of a lunging short leg. Spinner McLean the bowler rewarded.
Burns (81) would go onto add forty with the once again impressive Malan but chopped an inswinging Modiba (1-15) delivery onto his stumps. Late in the day and with a Test ton in sight, it was a regrettable shot from the Surrey veteran.
Just as he had at Lords, Malan looked in good touch at Headingley (So in form on his old stomping ground and his new!). He passed fifty alongside captain Root. The latter, having made scores of 3 & 0 at Lords, was his more usual self on home turf. Three runs shy of a fifty partnership for the incumbent pair, we ended day two on 224-2 with the deficit reduced to 219. We still had a long way to go but had given ourselves a fighting chance courtesy of some accomplished batting.
Day three started despairingly when Malan (60) was pinned LBW by spinner McLean in the first over. Come McLean’s next over, Root (24) fell in the same fashion. The departing batsmen used up both the team’s reviews to boot! Next to come and go was Ollie Pope. The Surrey youngster couldn’t rein in his attacking instincts and nicked behind for a duck off man of the moment McLean.
To everybody’s surprise, McLean was then taken out of the attack. It proved no respite as pacer Johnson (2-80) made use of cloud cover to find the edges of both Stokes (13) and Curran (3). At that point, our third day efforts amounted to 31-5! Though Jos Buttler looked like a fish out of water, he somehow survived until drinks alongside Chris Woakes.
It was during this phase of play that I remembered why I should only play when my children are in bed/out of the house… because a bath doesn’t last long enough. Excuses, excuses!
Post beverages, Woakes (20) and Buttler (29) timed some nice strokes but fell in quick succession, the latter to seal McLean’s five-wicket haul. Spinner McLean (6-80) then terminated the innings by trapping Wood (7) LBW, his fourth such dismissal. We’d lost eight wickets for 87 runs inside the morning session. It was an abysmal and unacceptable display. 315 all out presented Zimbabwe with a first innings lead of 128.
In the second innings, Modiba got Zimbabwe off to a flyer in an opening stand of 43. Spinner Jack Leach was brought into the piece early however and soon found the edge of Modiba’s fellow opener Coetzer (19). Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler pouched that chance but then dropped an absolute sitter off Stokes. First innings centurion Thomson, on only five at the time, was the reprieved batsman. Fortunately it mattered little as, having added only four, Thomson did fall to the Stokes (2-35)/Buttler combo.
Sam Curran then found the edge of Modiba, only for Ollie Pope’s miserable match to continue. Positioned at gully, he spilled the catch to deny his Surrey teammate a wicket! It didn’t prove costly though, as, having added only one more run, the impressive Stokes forced Modiba (57) to drag onto his stumps. Unbelievably, Curran (1-48), bowling around the wicket, then dismissed Teixeira (10) in the same fashion. After a drinks break, Root found the faintest of inside edges to have Walsh (12) caught by Buttler. By tea on day three, Zimbabwe had slipped from 81-1 to 131-5 but the lead was up to a healthy 259.
After sarnies and salad, Root returned to his number one spinner Leach, The Somerset man stunningly struck twice in the first over of the final session. Firstly, he claimed the vital wicket of Redlingbuys (27) courtesy of an outstanding close catch by the redeemed Pope. Gloveman Cynthia soon followed when he chopped on for a second ball duck.
With the visitors 136-7, we were still very much in the game. As much as Mohamed and McLean wafted outside off stump though, we just couldn’t find another edge, not one that carried to a fielder or dragged onto the stumps anyway! Somehow the pair survived and then went onto register a determined fifty partnership. With just a couple of overs left in the day, Leach did find an edge… only for Root to spill it in the slips! The skipper was possibly distracted by Buttler’s initial movement that looked like he was going to attempt the catch.
Soon after, Mark Wood (1-35) did dismiss McLean (35) when the batsman played an atrocious slog to the final delivery of the day’s penultimate over. Buttler registered another catch. Zimbabwe finished the third day on 210-8 by which time their lead had spiralled to 338!
Mohamed (58) and Johnson frustrated our bowlers on the fourth morning before the former, who was starting to put his foot down, edged to slip off Leach (4-56). Unlike Root the previous evening, Stokes pouched the chance. Root (2-21) then bowled Johnson (10) to terminate the innings on 247. Having reduced Zimbabwe to 136-7, the partnership of 72 between Mohamed and McLean had surely swung things the away side’s way. We required 376 to win.
Following his excellent 81 in the first innings, Rory Burns (6) defaulted to first Test Rory Burns, caught and bowled when hooking in Thomson’s first over. From there though, messrs Sibley and Malan counter-attacked. The duo took the score from 11-1 to 78-1 with little alarm. That was until the final delivery of the morning session when Sibley edged a snorter from the ever impressive Thomson. However… calamity ensued behind the stumps with wicketkeeper Cynthia and first slip getting in each other’s way to reprieve the Warwickshire batsman. With a little luck, we’d once again laid the foundations but could we avoid an all too familiar collapse and pull off a record run chase?
Sibley and Malan took their partnership into three figures before Thomson bowled Malan (64) with a stunning swinging delivery. Cue the introduction of first innings nemesis McLean and the departure of our captain Root (4), caught behind. Zimbabwean gloveman Ryan Cynthia was fined for the unsavoury send off that he provided Root (See above!). 31 runs in four innings, a lean series for our skipper and staring a series whitewash in the face.
Ben Stokes (14) hinted at holding up the procession, only to lob a catch to short leg off you know who… McLean! 118-1 had become 147-4. Ollie Pope (4) ended a miserable series by being trapped LBW by… I don’t need to say do I?! Surrey starlet Pope mustered only 30 runs in four innings in the series. He and Root’s series contribution with the bat was effectively 61-8!
With a familiar tale ensuing, all the England fans wanted was some fight, some application, some proper Test match batting. They got it from messrs Sibley and Buttler! The pair left and defended but also ran well. They combined for a half-century partnership to lift the score from 156-5 to 210-5 on the cusp of tea. Then… the unbelievable happened! Having been dropped by the wicketkeeper off the final ball of the first session, Sibley edged to Cynthia off Thomson to the very last delivery of the middle session. Clearly we’ve seen that Thomson is an excellent bowler, but having seen off McLean (3-28) for so long, it was a cruel blow for Sibley (96) to fall just short of a Test ton. At 210-6, we were still 166 runs from saving the series.
After the break, Curran (5) failed to apply himself as Sibley and Buttler had. The left-hander wildly slashed to slip off Clark (1-56) in the first over after tea. From there, Buttler and Woakes decided to try and hit anything in their arc. It only resulted in Buttler (22) wasting a promising platform. He’d faced 52 deliveries and put some of his teammates to shame but was caught behind off Thomson. Wood (0) then gloved an attempted hook to the wicketkeeper to give the immense Thomson his fifer. Following McLean’s six-wicket haul first time around, Thomson (6-72) accounted for Woakes (17) to achieve the same feat in the second dig. 118-1 had become 249 all out! We’d lost our final five wickets for just 39 runs to blow a decent foundation laid by the lads at the top of the order.
We lost the Test by 126 runs to lose the series 2-0. During the two matches, we’d bowled well at times and also batted well actually, but consistently lost wickets in clusters after a good start. We also failed to finish off the Zimbabwe innings quick enough having made inroads.
It’s onto the One-Day Internationals now, followed by the Twenty20 matches. We’ll see if we can fare any better with a white ball!
Disclaimer: Apologies for the dark and dingy images but I was trying to keep the sun out! Also, there’s a new patch for the game… so we’ll see what that brings!