Eddo Brandes: updated biography

John Ward

January 19, 2001

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FULL NAME: Eddo Andre Brandes
BORN: 5 March 1963, Port Shepstone (Natal)
MAJOR TEAMS: Zimbabwe (since 1985), Mashonaland Country Districts (1994/95-1995/96), Mashonaland (1996/97- ). Present club team: Old Hararians.
KNOWN AS: Eddo Brandes. Nickname: 'Chicken George'
BATTING STYLE: Right Hand Bat
BOWLING STYLE: Right Arm Fast Medium
OCCUPATION: Chicken farmer
FIRST-CLASS DEBUT: Zimbabweans v Minor Counties, at Cleethorpes, 1985
TEST DEBUT: Inaugural Test v India, at Harare Sports Club, 1992/93
ODI DEBUT: 10 October 1987, v India, Hyderabad (World Cup)

BIOGRAPHY (updated January 2001)

Eddo Brandes is probably the world's most famous chicken farmer. He was the spearhead of Zimbabwe's bowling attack for over ten years, and was just at his peak when Zimbabwe gained Test status in 1992.

A few months earlier he had played the major role in an unexpected victory by Zimbabwe over England in the World Cup of 1991/92, breaking the back of the England innings with four cheap wickets. He received far more prominence, though, against England in 1996/97, the highlight of his career at the age of 33, when he appeared to be fitter and bowling perhaps better than ever before. Despite the presence of several promising young pace bowlers, Eddo was determined to continue to play a leading part in the Zimbabwean team, and his skill and experience kept him in the selectors' minds right up to the 1999/2000 season, when he was unexpectedly recalled for what was probably his final Test match.

Eddo was born in Port Shepstone, on the southern coast of Natal, but shortly afterwards his father, a farmer, moved to Rhodesia, as it then was, to work on a sugar estate near Triangle in the Lowveld. Although his father was not an active cricketer, he did shoot for this country. Eddo attended Murray McDougall Primary School at Triangle, and played cricket there; he was inspired to take more interest in the game by the visits of national cricketer Brian Davison to coach while he was in Standard 3 (Grade 5). He both batted and bowled and, although in adult cricket his bowling has taken precedence, he has always been a potentially dangerous batsman against all but the fastest bowlers or the highest quality spinners. He was selected for the Partridges, the national primary schools team, in 1975. He moved on to Fort Victoria (now Masvingo) High School from 1976 to 1979, representing the Fawns, the national under-15 team, in 1978. In his second year there he recorded his first century, in an inter-school match. He moved on to Prince Edward School in Harare from 1980 to 1982, where he was also a boarder, and played for the Zimbabwe Schools team in 1982.

After leaving school, he attended Pietermaritzburg University to study agricultural management; he also played cricket for the university, but his studies probably delayed his coming to prominence in Zimbabwe cricket. He made steady progress without any spectacular performances in Harare league cricket during the vacations and, with the selectors looking for a strike bowler to replace Peter Rawson, unavailable for the 1985 tour of England, he did well enough to be chosen. It took place during the university vacation, but he enjoyed little success.

On his return to Harare the following year, he played for Old Hararians, the Prince Edward old boys' club, and worked to start with in a furniture shop, fortunately with an employer who was kind enough to allow him plenty of time off to play cricket. He was soon opening the bowling with Peter Rawson, and once again Zimbabwe had a bowling attack with real firepower.

Eddo really made his name in the season of 1986/87. After two unsuccessful outings against powerful Young West Indies team, he tore into their batsmen in the third match with his first five-wicket haul, after removing Phil Simmons and John Charles for 17. Unfortunately poor Zimbabwe batting resulted in a heavy defeat. Against Pakistan B he was the dominant bowler on either side, taking 17 wickets in three matches. His pace and hostility complemented Rawson well, although at this stage of his career he concentrated mainly on raw pace and was criticized for too much short-pitched bowling; he did not have extreme pace by world standards and the placid home pitches often resulted in the bumper being a wasted ball. As Eddo developed, he would slow his pace a little, pitch the ball up more readily and develop the skills of movement, becoming a more complete bowler in the process. He found Rawson a great help and encouragement in his development as a bowler, and also particularly mentions the support of such other players as Dave Houghton, John Traicos and Robin Brown.

In 1988/89, Eddo wrote his way into the record books by becoming the first (and to date still the only) Zimbabwean bowler ever to record a first-class hat-trick. This came against Bert Vance's New Zealand Young Internationals, when he changed the course of the match by first dismissing Gavin Larsen hit wicket, after a major partnership, and then immediately having Tony Blain caught and Mark Priest lbw.

After that season, Peter Rawson emigrated to Natal and Eddo found himself Zimbabwe's sole strike bowler. He had sometimes been forced to bowl long spells in the past due to the team's limited bowling resources, but now he frequently found himself over-bowled. At times this proved counter-productive, as he sustained injuries and missed important matches. Another important factor was his decision to go into business himself and take up chicken farming in 1992, just before Zimbabwe gained Test status. Out at Ruwa, just east of Harare, he found it increasingly difficult to spend enough time in training and practice.

Eddo has received considerable criticism for his injury problems, and he understandably resents them. He admits that he has not always been fully fit, but points out that this often proved impossible with his very time-consuming business. He went into chicken farming before professional cricket had taken root in Zimbabwe, and his foremost responsibility was to get his business established, which involved working very long hours and financial problems, as it was difficult to borrow money. He had to do all the administrative work single-handed and it was not always possible to find the time or energy that he wanted to play cricket in the peak of condition.

However, he remained Zimbabwe's number one strike bowler when the country attained Test status in 1992. After Zimbabwe had run up 456 against India in the inaugural Test, the team looked to Eddo as its main strike bowler. Unfortunately, after bowling only two overs he injured his ankle so seriously that umpire Dickie Bird thought it was broken, and he was unable to play any further part in the match. It was left to the veteran John Traicos to rise to the occasion with five wickets, enabling Zimbabwe to lead on first innings. And Eddo recovered in time to play in the New Zealand Test at Harare three weeks later, when he took four wickets. He also took 13 wickets in Pakistan the following year, but by now the increasing workload of international cricket was taking its toll.

Injured early the following season, he was omitted when fit again from matches against the touring Sri Lankans, and looked a doubtful choice for the tour of Australia for the World Series Cup. While Zimbabwe were playing the one-day series against Sri Lanka, Eddo had been relegated to the Zimbabwe Board team to play Griqualand West in Kimberley. He rose to the occasion superbly. He pulverized the Griquas attack for 165 not out, including 10 sixes and 15 fours, and then ripped out seven Griqua batsmen in the first innings. Two more wickets in the second innings left him just one short of a rare match double of 100 runs and 10 wickets in the same match, previously achieved only by Percy Mansell from this country. This made his trip to Australia certain; unfortunately, another breakdown in Australia saw him return home early.

Prior to his century, Eddo had generally failed to do his batting justice at first-class level. His only previous first-class fifty was an outstanding innings of 94 against the touring county side Glamorgan in 1990/91; he arrived at the crease with Zimbabwe struggling on 65 for six, and then shared a stand of 147 with the young Alistair Campbell, who went on to his maiden first-class century.

Since then, he has never been certain of his place in the Zimbabwean team. However, with his chicken farm now established, he is still determined to play a major role in international cricket. During the 1996/97 season he was fitter and bowling better than he had been for years, and fine bowling on unhelpful pitches in Logan Cup matches regained him a place in the national squad, when so many people had written him off.

During the series against England, he showed that he is as good a bowler as ever, if not better. He bowled superbly in the one-day internationals, becoming the first Zimbabwean to take a one-day hat-trick in the third. His victims were all top-order batsmen: Knight, Crawley and Hussain. He bowled his ten overs without a break, taking five wickets and ensuring a Zimbabwe victory. He also contributed well with the bat in the first one-day match; coming in with eight wickets down and the match in the balance, he was told by captain Alistair Campbell to play his natural game. He responded with a huge six over extra cover, which greatly relieved the pressure, and was still there at the end. A twisted ankle caused him to miss the First Test, but in the Second he bowled very well without taking a wicket.

Then came the remaining one-day matches, and Eddo overshadowed his younger partner Heath Streak, who was still not fully fit, to re-establish himself as Zimbabwe's spearhead. In the second match he made a vital early breakthrough by dismissing England opener Nick Knight without scoring, but the third match was his greatest triumph. After Zimbabwe had scored 249, Brandes opened the bowling, unusually, from the south (city) end at Harare Sports Club. With 9 runs on the board, he had Knight caught at the wicket by Andy Flower and next ball dismissed John Crawley to a plumb lbw decision. That completed his over; with the first ball of his next over, Nasser Hussain was well caught by Andy Flower, diving to his right, and Eddo had taken Zimbabwe's first hat-trick in one-day internationals. He later dismissed Alec Stewart and Mike Atherton to take five wickets in the innings, the first five batsmen in the order, and Zimbabwe won by 131 runs.

This was followed by the triangular series in South Africa, with India also participating. Eddo opened the bowling with the big-swinging John Rennie, and seldom did they fail to achieve an early breakthrough. Eddo took five wickets in the tied match against India, and 12 wickets altogether in the three matches. He was not so successful on the spinners' pitches in Sharjah, but he had completed perhaps the most memorable season of his career.

Zimbabwe was looking forward to seeing Eddo continue his triumphs against New Zealand in 1997/98, but he began the season less fit than before, and with a long-standing Achilles tendon injury. He failed several fitness tests, and missed the Test matches. He was selected for the first two one-day matches, but he was well below his best form and proved expensive, bowling too many half-volleys. He was replaced for the third match, and was forced to give his bowling a rest, although he continued to play club cricket for Universals as an opening batsman.

With determination he forced himself into the side for the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in September 1998, only to fall ill there with a virus. He recovered slowly and missed the first two one-day internationals at home against India, in both of which Zimbabwe were comprehensively defeated. He was fit for the third, and the selectors brought him back immediately, desperate to bolster an attack in which Heath Streak was the only possible match-winner. His return revitalized the team, who now knew they had a bowling attack to reckon with. It took the pressure off the batsmen, who responded with the highest total of the series, and then Eddo and Heath confronted the Indian batsmen with fire and purpose. Tendulkar and Azharuddin fell almost immediately and India never recovered the lost ground.

Eddo was not yet fit enough for a five-day Test, and it looks unlikely that he will play Test cricket again now; coach Dave Houghton saw his future role more in the one-day game. He went to Sharjah and began in devastating form, shattering the back of the Sri Lankan innings in the first match to take three for 19, with Gunawardene, Atapattu and then Jayasuriya all dismissed lbw, paving the way for another Zimbabwean victory. But after that he was less successful in unhelpful conditions. He bowled well in Pakistan, but without much luck, and had to return home after the one-day series due to business commitments.

In the New Year he suffered another setback with injuries sustained in a minor car accident. He made a comeback for Zimbabwe A against England A at the end of the season, but without approaching full pace, and the selectors must have thought hard before including him in the team for the World Cup, making him the first Zimbabwean to play in four World Cup competitions. Unfortunately he was a disappointment in England and played in only two World Cup matches, never looking a threat and in fact being given only three expensive overs against India.

It looked as if his career was finally over. But he came back to play club cricket and was still ambitious to regain his place in the national team. When Zimbabwe suffered injury problems among their pace bowlers, including Heath Streak, against Sri Lanka during 1999/2000, they brought back Eddo for the Third Test, and he responded with the best bowling figures of three for 45, including those of top-order batsmen Mahela Jayawardene and Sanath Jayasuriya, which reduced Sri Lanka to 29 for three at one stage. He was hoping for selection to the triangular tournament in South Africa and the tours to West Indies and England that followed, but Streak returned and the selectors overlooked him.

He announced his retirement from all cricket at the end of that season. But the following season he was seen back in club cricket, playing for Harare Sports Club, and playing a valuable all-round role for them. Eddo says it was the departure of Murray Goodwin and Neil Johnson that prompted him to return. "I thought that maybe I would have a bit more to offer Zimbabwe cricket," he said. "So I made myself available again and come out and played this season." By the New Year of 2001, though, he was still waiting, but hoping to play in the Logan Cup and perhaps return to the international scene for the tours by Bangladesh, India and West Indies.

His most memorable match, Eddo thinks, was the hat-trick match against England, but not far behind was that World Cup victory, where Eddo himself was man of the match with four prime wickets for 21. England needed a mere 135 to win, but Eddo, who bowled his ten overs on the trot, dismissed Graham Gooch lbw first ball, and then in quick succession removed Allan Lamb, Robin Smith and his former school-mate Graeme Hick, the last two with off-cutters that went through the gate. This set up a magnificent nine-run Zimbabwean victory.

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