Zimbabwe batter Gary Ballance scored a superb century on the fourth day of the first Test against West Indies in Bulawayo on Tuesday.
The 33-year-old's century was the fifth of his Test career, but his first for Zimbabwe after officially moving to represent the country of his birth in late 2022. On his Zimbabwe Test debut against West Indies, Ballance has written himself into the history books.
The 33-year-old's outstanding 137* means he is just the second player in the history of the game to have scored Test centuries for two different countries, following in the footsteps of former Australia and South Africa international Kepler Wessels.
The left-handed Ballance played 42 times for England across all three formats, averaging 37.45 in his 23 Test appearances for England between 2014 and 2017. He was the third fastest batter in England men's history to reach 1000 Test runs, but his form slipped off and he was dropped in 2017.
A long spell out of international cricket meant that, by 2021, he was eligible to also play for Zimbabwe. And in December 2022 he announced that he had made himself available to play for Zimbabwe, the country where he was born, grew up, and who he represented at the youth level.
"The opportunity to represent Zimbabwe has given me a new-found passion and excitement for the game," the batter was quoted as saying by ICC on his decision to switch national teams.
"I have kept in touch with a number of people within Zimbabwe cricket over the years and it has been great to watch their recent progress especially."
Ballance featured in one T20I and two ODIs for Zimbabwe in January prior to his selection for the Test series against West Indies.
And his century on the fourth day in Bulawayo came at a vital time for his team.
Facing the prospect of a significant first-innings deficit or potentially even following on, Ballance steadied the ship before accelerating the scoring.
His outstanding 135-run partnership for the eighth wicket with Brandon Mavuta (56) got Zimbabwe out of trouble, with Ballance still out in the middle unbeaten on 137* when his captain declared in the hope of forcing a result. Opener Innocent Kaia also scored a valuable knock of 67 off 132 balls. The hosts declared at 379/9.
Pacer Alzarri Joseph (3/75) was the leading bowler for the Windies. Gudakesh Motie and Jason Holder took two wickets while Kemar Roach and Kraigg Braithwaite, the skipper, took a wicket each.
Zimbabwe still trailed by 68 runs. West Indies had declared their first innings at 447/6. Tagenarine Chanderpaul (207*) and skipper Brathwaite (182) played some incredible knocks and stitched a massive opening stand of 336 runs, the highest first-wicket stand for the side. They both overtook the record of legendary Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, who put on 298 runs against England in 1990.
Brandon Mavuta took a five-wicket haul, ending with figures of 5/140.
West Indies led by 89 runs going into the final day's play, with Ballance's heroics keeping the game alive.
Brief Scores: Zimbabwe: 379/9 (Gary Ballance 137*, Innocent Kaia 67, Alzarri Joseph 3/75) vs West Indies: 447/6 d and 21/0 (Kraigg Braithwaite 11*, Tagenarine Chanderpaul 10*). (ANI)