March 30, 2001

All out 19: Bryan Strang tells the story


Last weekend Matabeleland set a new record for first-class cricket when they were dismissed for just 19 runs in their second innings against Mashonaland on the new square at Harare Sports Club. Left-arm swing bowler Bryan Strang took five wickets for six runs in this debacle, while his opening partner Eddo Brandes took five for 12. Bryan talks to CricInfo about this match, and also about his tour with the national side and his views on Zimbabwean cricket.

It was quite a difficult tour for me because I did a lot of bowling. We had a lot of injuries on the bowling side, so I bowled a great deal in the nets as well and played in most of the games. My form was rather up and down, depending on how fit and confident I felt. Sometimes I bowled very well, but I went through periods when I was really tired and struggling with the length of the tour.

I really enjoyed playing in India, but I struggled in the one-day games in New Zealand after bowling well in the Test match. In Australia I only got into my rhythm after the first week and a half, but I found it tough. I found a three-month tour particularly taxing for my bowling, and I wasn't used to it.

My biggest highlights were beating India at Jodhpur when we were chasing 283 and obviously beating the West Indies. After having them 25 for seven I would have liked to have bowled them out for below the world record. It didn't happen that way, but we still won the game, and it showed us that if we can put our bowling to that level and our batting together, we can be a competitive side.

On a personal level the Test match in New Zealand was important to me because I took my 50th Test wicket. It was a very tough game for me as well because I bowled 20 overs into the strong wind, which was a new experience for me. I think that match messed up my bowling for three or four games afterwards because it made my rhythm very difficult. There was also that West Indies game.

I'm really enjoying my one-day cricket at the moment. I'm learning a lot and I think that now I've played Australia in Australia maybe I've come the full circle and now I have to start improving my performances. The time for me to find my feet in international cricket is over, so this season I'd like to start taking more wickets. I'm no longer nervous when I play now; I think I've been in most situations and it's time for me to start performing.

The coaches are always going on about my pace, saying I still lack a yard or two of pace, but I'm not totally sure about that. I know I can bowl a quick delivery when I want to. I spoke to Bobby Simpson when he was out here, and I've made a slight adjustment to my finger positioning on the ball, which helped with my in-swing in this last game where I bowled four people. I wasn't landing my inswinger consistently enough and my fingers were too close together, so I didn't have the control I needed. So I made a slight adjustment, and just talking to Bobby Simpson for ten minutes about bowling has done me a world of good in my approach to swing bowling. That's what I feel I am, a swing bowler, not a pace bowler.

As far as my batting is concerned, I think I just stopped doing the right things on tour, to be honest. It's very difficult because I've sat up at nights trying to work out my batting, but I've always been best when I've blocked the good ball and hit the bad ball for four. But now I'm trying too hard to bat like a proper batsman, I think! I need to work hard on my batting. I stopped working on it after India because I found the tour so tiring from the bowling point of view and started cutting out the batting side of things. It just shows me that if you want to make your twenties and thirties at the highest level, you've got to practise, practise and practise.

Mashonaland 194 (Craig Evans 74, Don Campbell 65; Ian Engelbrecht 4/37) and 222/5 dec (Gavin Rennie 60, Grant Flower 78). Matabeleland 115 (Bryan Strang 4/42) and 19 (Eddo Brandes 5/12, Bryan Strang 5/6). Mashonaland won by 282 runs.

In the match against Matabeleland there were very good conditions for swing bowling: a typical Harare Sports Club pitch, I think. The new ball seamed and swung quite a lot, but when the ball got older I think it was easier to stay in, but harder to score. I heard a lot of batsmen say it was tough; yes, those first twenty overs were tough, but I think if you got in and batted time you could runs.

But for bowlers obviously it was nice with the new ball. It was swinging a lot, and I think most of the wickets to fall were due to swing bowling. In the whole game I only got two wickets caught behind, which is unusual for me because that's my most common way to take wickets. I had three lbw and bowled four people, so that was really different. But it does show my inswing is coming on well. I hope I get selected against Bangladesh playing at Harare Sports Club, and if I can bowl the same way against them I'm sure I can wreak some damage there.

We lost the toss and were put in to bat. We had been consistently in the Logan Cup 70 or so for six in our batting and we wanted to turn that around. We didn't get off to a great start [80 for six!] but Andrew Flower and Donald Campbell once again batted very well and got us to 194, which we thought was not a bad score, with a heavy outfield and a seaming wicket.

When they batted, Eddo and I opened. They have a very young batting line-up and I think if you put pressure on them early they can be in trouble. The two batsmen who were crucial were Streak and Nkala, and we managed to knock them both over for small scores. Once those two had gone it was just a matter of bowling good line and length.

In their second innings, what can I say? I got their first wicket with the last ball of the second over, and from then on it was like a pack of cards. Eddo and I bowled consistently well; we didn't give them anything loose, no bad balls. The ball was swinging and basically their techniques weren't up to it. Eddo was swinging the ball prodigiously and so was I. The combination of the batsmen not being able to escape from me without having to play Eddo worked in our favour.

The pitch at this time was still not bad. I think the only ball that misbehaved was the one I bowled to Streak, which reared off a length and he parried it to mid-off. But it was swing that did them. Eddo got a lot out caught behind, I bowled a couple of guys and got two lbw. So even though the pitch was lively with the new ball, I don't think it had a lot to do with it. I think the overhead conditions, which were overcast and muggy, had most to do with it.

Afterwards we looked at the stats and I think they only managed to play about nine balls with the bat out of the whole 71 balls that were faced. Something like five of those were edged and the rest scoring shots. It was pretty good bowling, but I don't think we'll ever see anything like that again. Out of that total of 19, one scoring shot was a six and one was a four. It was actually amazing and I couldn't believe it myself.

I think there was a certain lack of heart among the Matabeleland batsmen, but I also think that when you get to a situation where you are 15 for five and you're a young inexperienced guy, you don't know which way to go. We never gave them any respite; there wasn't even a two-over period where there was not a wicket in between.

Again I think when Nkala and Streak came together it was a crucial time, but Streaky got out third ball, and then Nkala got out second ball the next over. Their experience was gone, and I don't think you can expect guys like the Gilmours, Engelbrechts and Mbangwas to bat out 90 overs. That was it.

I'm just very happy to get another five-fer. We've another first-class game this weekend and we'll start in earnest for Bangladesh. I've just got to make sure the selectors can't leave me out, and if I start bowling badly and they do leave me out I've just got to work harder to get back in. I've been there before and I'm sure I'll be there again. But it's nice to start off the season with a five-fer. I've got 16 wickets in the Logan Cup, I've come off quite a good tour of Australia and I'm very confident, and very fit. I want to make this season my season and cement a place in the national side.

It's harder for me in that there are a lot of bowlers pushing for places at the moment. We have Brighton Watambwa, who by all accounts is bowling very quickly, which is good for us, because it puts pressure on Henry Olonga to perform; we have Dave Mutendera who is bowling really well; Eddo is bowling really well, although he's getting on in cricketing terms; Gus Mackay is bowling really well and is aiming for a place in the national side. So it's really competitive.

Even though the standard of first-class cricket here isn't what we would want it to be, it's important to have more people playing so more people can show their skills. I think if we can do well against Bangladesh and start the season with a couple of wins, it will be a good season for us.

I think the Logan Cup is excellent at the moment. I know there are some players who say it is not top standard and we should maybe play three teams with all our best players playing against each other, but I believe that the more playing the better. You are going to get certain games that aren't pretty to look at on the scorecards and you're going to get different levels of skill.

The only thing I think is wrong with our domestic cricket at the moment is that we're playing too much 50-over club cricket. I think there should be only one 50-over competition, the national league, and then the Logan Cup or two-day cricket should take precedence. I don't think we can go forward as a Test nation playing four national competitions of 50 overs per innings. I think we should perhaps be playing two-day club cricket over two Saturdays and on Sundays play our one-day games. The time for the BP Shield has long gone, I think.

There are so many young guys in the club game and we need to bridge the gap between them and the international players. For a start, they don't know how to rotate the strike. In the Matabeleland game, Mark Vermeulen was batting and I was bowling well to him, but he would either block or hit for four. I knew I would get him out sooner or later, and he couldn't rotate the strike and get to the other end.

There's too much schoolboy cricket - block, block, block, four. There is no innovation, no looking for singles or putting the fielders under pressure. There is such a difference in mental attitudes and we need to bridge that gap. We need more three-day cricket and more A-team tours. Club cricket today is not doing the job it used to.