Sikandar Raza was Zimbabwe’s unlikely bowling hero on the third day at Queens Sports Club. After his fighting first-innings 80, Raza picked up his maiden Test five-for and said he was both proud and humbled by the achievement.
“It’s quite a humbling and proud feeling, especially seeing your team do well as you take five,” Raza said. “It’s one of the roles you have as an allrounder. We always knew that missing [Kyle] Jarvis and Sean [Williams] would be tough. The way that [Graeme] Cremer bowled it could have been him as well.
“I still like to think that I’m a batter who can bowl, but being an allrounder it becomes a responsibility that you need to step up whenever you are given an opportunity. We are spending a lot more time as a spinning unit working on our bowling compared to six months ago, so to see the rewards like this is certainly humbling.”
Raza finished the day with 5 for 82 from 43 overs. He might easily have had a sixth wicket when he trapped Jason Holder in front of the stumps when he had scored just 11, but Umpire Kumar Dharmasena disagreed with the appeal and Zimbabwe had already used up all of their reviews. Indeed, it was Raza who had used their last review attempting to dislodge Kieran Powell.
“It is what it is,” Raza said. “I said to the captain that I think I deserved it because we went for a review on Powell when we shouldn’t have. Kumar said he heard an inside edge. We didn’t. But a few go your way and a few don’t. The [Roston] Chase decision could have gone either way. You win some you lose some.”
Holder went on to strike an unbeaten 71, putting on 144 for the eighth wicket with Shane Dowrich and extending West Indies lead to 48 at the close. “We wanted to be 48 ahead,” Raza said. “If the decision against Holder had gone our way then that could have happened. But we tried everything, we bowled well, we fielded well, our energies were up. Sometimes you’re going to have to raise your hand and say that we tried everything and it didn’t work because the opposition have batted well. Credit to them for batting that well.”
A natural optimist, Raza reminded the press corp that Zimbabwe were just a few overs away from the new ball on Wednesday morning. Only half joking, he also said he would be willing to open the bowling in West Indies’ second innings.
“The last hour was easier [for West Indies] because there wasn’t much turn and what turn there was, was slow,” Raza said. “But we’re 10 overs away from a third new ball, so that’s a positive. I think if Cremer refuses then I’ll pick up the ball and take the first over [in the second innings]. But the way the body is feeling right now, I might make sure he uses all the utilities before he comes to me.”
With two more full days to go in the second Test, Raza suggested that Zimbabwe would be happy defending 270 to 300 runs on a pitch likely to break up in the next two days.
“Hopefully, we come back fresh tomorrow with all three spinners and two seamers and have a plan how we’re going to go about our business,” he said. “First we have to look at how we get these three wickets and then how we bat second time around. Depending on the time, I think 270 to 300 would be a good total to defend.”