Bulawayo — Gary Ballance became only the second men’s cricketer to hit a test hundred for two countries as his unbeaten 137 helped Zimbabwe avoid the follow on against the West Indies on Tuesday.
Ballance, playing his first test for Zimbabwe after his last for England in 2017, anchored his new side to 379-9 declared, conceding 68 runs on the first innings late on the fourth day.
The Zimbabweans gave themselves 13 overs to attack the West Indies but openers Kraigg Brathwaite and Tagenarine Chanderpaul were as resolute in reaching stumps at 21 without loss as they were in their stand of 336 in the first innings.
Ballance went in at 114-3 and watched four teammates dismissed in the days first 12 overs.
At 192-7 and the tail exposed, Zimbabwe was in jeopardy of having to follow on. It needed 56 more runs.
Ballance and allrounder Brandon Mavuta combined for 135 to turn around Zimbabwe’s mindset from survival into attack. It declared to match West Indies’ declaration to try and force a result, though a draw is more likely on the flat pitch with too much time lost to rain.
“It’s a positive move, a positive declaration,” Ballance said. ”We are trying to put ourselves on the front foot to win. That’s what the coach want us to play, to play positive.”
His 42-test career with England petered out nearly six years ago, and Ballance was caught up in the Yorkshire racism scandal. He admitted and apologized for using a racist term against Azeem Rafiq and ended his county contract early.
He returned to his homeland, and made his Zimbabwe debut in Twenty20s and one-day internationals last month.
In his first test innings for Zimbabwe, Ballance played a measured innings and didn’t attack at the beginning, showing great poise to hold the innings together.
He reached the fifth hundred of his career with a six over point off left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie, and joined Kepler Wessels, formerly of Australia and South Africa, as the only batters to hit test ton for different countries.
Ballance also became the highest scorer on test debut for Zimbabwe, eclipsing coach and former captain Dave Houghton, to whom he is related. Houghton made 121 in Zimbabwe’s maiden test in 1992 against India in Harare.
“I can’t even describe how proud I am, firstly to represent Zimbabwe, and secondly to get the hundred,” Ballance said.
“It’s been amazing (to play for Zimbabwe). Every single coach, every single player, has been welcoming. I have played with some of the players before, but it makes a difference to come into a new team and be welcome. It makes it easier to perform.”
On playing tests for different countries, he said, “It’s a different feeling. For England, it was a feeling of achievement, while for Zimbabwe, it’s also achievement, and a matter of pride.”
Mavuta rallied with Ballance in their key century stand, scoring 56. Playing in his first test in five years, Mavuta, after taking a maiden five-for on Monday, saw his career-best score ended when he was bowled playing across the line to a short Jason Holder delivery.
The West Indies used nine bowlers to try and dismiss Zimbabwe. Fast bowler Alzarri Joseph was the pick with 3-75.
Joseph said they still hoped to win the test.
“We have a full day of cricket left,” he said. “The wicket is flat, it should be a batting day (on Wednesday). But we will try to win.”