June 3, 2001

Indians reject follow-on against Academy

The Indian tourists continued to dominate their warm-up match against the CFX Academy at the Country Club in Harare. They declared at 446 for four and looked possible victors in two days until a fine fighting innings from Gary Brent revived the Academy tail. The Academy were dismissed for 192 and the tourists decided to take more batting practice, finishing the day on 15 for no wicket (Badani 6, Ramesh 7).

It was a typical winter's day in Harare: cloudless sky, pleasant in the sun but often cold out of it. The Indians continued from their overnight total of 370 for three, with Hemang Badani again taking the eye with his classy drives. He may well find it more difficult with his apparently limited footwork on pitches where the ball moves around more, but on this showing he looked a class act.

Sourav Ganguly gradually seemed to be finding his form, and was satisfied enough to retire on reaching his fifty. Badani (112 not out) went on to his century, being dropped in the deep off the luckless Ian Coulson the ball before Ganguly declared after an hour's batting. Sairag Bahutule was unbeaten on five.

Despite their mauling, the Academy players were not disheartened, appreciating that they were on a steep learning curve on what had become the flattest of pitches. Campbell Macmillan and Gary Brent bowled most creditably to concede fewer than three runs an over.

Dion Ebrahim and Terry Duffin faced some spirited pace bowling by Javagal Srinath and Ajit Agarkar with dogged determination, a single to the former off the first over being followed by six maidens. Then, just as the runs were beginning to come, Ebrahim flashed and was caught by wicket-keeper Samil Dighe for nine. As he was by far the side's most experienced batsman, this was a major blow for the Academy.

Duffin and Guy Croxford struggled for runs, and on the stroke of lunch the dogged Duffin (7) was trapped lbw by Zahir Khan. Two wickets fell quickly after the interval: Barney Rogers (6) edged Khan to the keeper, while Croxford was adjudged lbw for 21. There was a brief respite as Sean Ervine joined Mluleki Nkala, but he could score only three laboriously before being bowled by Agarkar.

It became rather a procession. Nkala, with his experience less in awe of the opposition than most of his team, batted well for 23, but then drove Harbhajan Singh straight to deepish mid-on. The lower order contributed little until Wisdom Siziba, who injured his knee keeping wicket on the first day, came in at No 10 and held firm.

After tea Brent played a typically defiant and courageous innings, making the most of a couple of slices of luck, while Siziba gave admirable support. Brent passed his fifty but finally lost Siziba (20), clipping back a catch to bowler Bahutule. The pair came together at 78 for eight and added 77.

With last man Coulson at the crease, Brent passed his previous highest first-class score of 55 and was particularly harsh on leg-spinner Bahutule. When Coulson, after a bright 17, was superbly caught by Shiv Sunder Das at short leg off Harbhajan, Brent had 72 and the Academy were dismissed for 192, a deficit of 254. Harbhajan (four for 43) was the best bowler.