November 9, 2001

Brighton Watambwa: Board XI v North West B

Brighton Watambwa burst into the limelight with some impressive pace-bowling performances for Zimbabwe against Bangladesh and India, but then broke down with a leg injury and hasn't played for the country since. He is tall, lean and ungainly-looking, and his legs have not stood up to the strain of fast bowling. But he is now beginning to play again, and talks to John Ward about his ups and downs during the past few months and also about his recent outing with the Zimbabwe Board XI against North West.

My first Test wicket was one of the most memorable moments for me. It was against Bangladesh when the batsman - I can't remember who it was [it was Naimur Rahman, caught by Andy Blignaut in the slips] - nicked off, and it was quite a special moment for me, especially considering I'd had quite a shaky start to that Test match.

I had a few other good occasions, particularly against India. Unfortunately I got injured in the Test match in Harare, but it was excellent just to be involved in that game. It was on 15 June, and I tore my hamstring muscle in the act of bowling. That meant six weeks off, and coming back I had major problems with both knees, and coming back from that I tore the quadricep muscle on my right leg! So it hasn't been the most pleasant three or four months for me.

I've been doing a lot of gym and strengthening work while recovering, a much more intensive programme than I've been using before, just to strengthen my legs. I don't seem to have any problems with any other parts of my body, just my legs. So I'm doing a lot of work on that.

I played my first club game a week and a half ago, against Alex, and that went perfectly: one for 22 off ten overs. It was like a fitness test to see if I could go on the Board XI tour.

I've just come back from South Africa where I played in the three-day game, but perhaps I wasn't 100 per cent ready. I bowled 20 overs on the first day and nine overs on the second day, and with not having bowled so much recently in such a short space of time I went into spasms the following day, so I had to sit out the last two days of the tour.

We flew down to Johannesburg last Thursday morning and played on Friday through to Monday. We drove from Johannesburg to Potchefstroom, but we played at Fochville, which is about halfway between the two, about 60 kilometres from `Potch'. The crowd was very disappointing, and I don't think we had more than 20 spectators on any one day. I think it's because we were playing in Fochville, which is just a little town where not much seems to be happening, and I think there would have been more had we been playing in Potch.

The ground is very remote but in a very nice setting. The pitch in all fairness was not quite to my liking, very slow, a nice batting wicket as can be seen from the scores, both teams making 300 in both their innings in the three-day game, and 250s in the 45-over game. The facilities were adequate - no complaints at all.

In the three-day game North West won the toss and elected to bat, which was a fair shout on such a good pitch. The pitch was a bit damp to start with, though, as they'd had a lot of rain there, so if we had put the ball in the right areas I think we could have done a lot more than we actually did. As the opening bowler I was the first person to play and I tended to pitch it a bit short. I'm used to the pitches we play on here, which are a bit quicker.

We didn't make early inroads as we should have done. They got off to a good start and made 301 all out. They batted quite well to get that, but as time went on the deck became drier and very easy to bat on. Their top five looked very solid but we ran through the tail right at the end.

Of our bowlers I'd say Raymond Price did a good job; he went through their top and middle order and took three wickets. I just knocked over the tail to finish with figures of four for 65 off nearly 20 overs. To be fair to myself, I think I could have ended up with six or seven, if I'd bowled properly to start with. But I bowled far too short, and I think it was also lack of match practice because I couldn't put the ball where I wanted, I didn't quite have the rhythm I wanted.

But I did find my rhythm when I came back at the end of the day and cleaned up their lower order; it didn't take long to knock them over. I think I was approaching full pace; in a one-day game I'd definitely go for full pace if I was playing. But in the longer game I didn't really try to go for full pace.

Our fielding was very sharp, especially to start with, on the first day. But towards the end of their second innings we got a bit slack.

When we batted we had a top-order collapse; I'm not really sure of the reason for that. All credit to their opening bowlers, who did come quite hard at us, and they had 15 or 20 overs to bowl at us at the end of the first day's play. They got one early wicket, and the following morning they carried on and got two or three more wickets, so we had six down for 70.

Then Dirk Viljoen and Alester Maregwede did very well, Dirk ending up with a hundred and Alester getting 55. The tail contributed a lot and we ended up with 309 all out. So it was a very good recovery. Dirk played a very good knock, stabilizing and then attacking. And all credit to Alester Maragwede as well, who stuck in with him and batted through the rough bit.

When I went in to bat at number eleven it was really easy batting - I made 21, run out! In all fairness it was a very even deck, very easy to bat on.

They got off to a very good start in their second innings, courtesy of me again! I was definitely not bowling at full pace and I was struggling a bit with my leg and my rhythm - I bowled a lot of no-balls in my first few overs and I didn't have any rhythm at all. I actually had to pull out in the end because of my leg.

Campbell Macmillan bowled very well, at a good pace, and got three wickets. Their batting was the same as in the first innings: pretty solid when their first four or five batsmen were in and some of their tail-enders getting a few. They were willing to play their shots on a pitch that was conducive to stroke-making, and I think they batted very well. They declared on 326 with eight down. I don't really think they should have declared when they did, with the batting attack we had; I thought it was a big gamble.

Everyone chipped in when we needed 319 to win. Most of the top and middle order chipped in and we got their total with seven down, with a few overs to spare. Gavin Rennie got 93 and he played very well. Alistair Campbell got a fifty and Dirk Viljoen again got runs, 43 not out, while Alester Maregwede got another fifty. It was a good contribution from the top and middle order.

We should never have let them get 300 in both innings, even though it was a good batting deck. I can understand it in the second innings when I had to pull out and we were a bowler short. But in the first innings we should definitely have restricted them to not more than 250. In the second innings there were a lot of dropped catches, particularly towards the end, and I think there we should definitely have restricted them to 250.

At the same time we never looked likely to lose the game. The reason why we lost those seven wickets in the second innings was because we were on the chase; we backed ourselves to get that total, and with the limited amount of time we really had to go after it. Chasing like that you are going to lose wickets, and they did bowl quite well, especially the openers. But there was never any chance that we would lose the game, and at the end of the day it was quite a comfortable victory.

For the one-day game as well it was a really nice batting deck. We saw them get off to a very good start after they won the toss again, but no one panicked. We saw how the pitch had played in the three-day game and we knew that if we could restrict them to around 250 we could back ourselves to chase it. We were again a bowler short because I couldn't play, and we did very well to restrict them to 254, even though we only took two wickets.

We would definitely have batted had we won the toss, but we still won the game by ten wickets. Alistair Campbell and Mark Vermeulen batted really well and their innings were more or less chanceless, I think. The fact that they lost only two wickets shows how good a batting deck it was. There was also a very strong wind blowing from one end, so our pace bowlers basically had to bowl from one end. It was really tough conditions for the bowlers.

I think half the team weren't really aware of all the rules of the competition, and we could have tried to win in 35 overs and gained an extra point, but we ended up winning in the 42nd over. Neither Mark nor Alistair was aware of that, and I wasn't aware of it either. But they made it look really easy.

A lot of the guys came away saying what an experience it had been, because of the big targets we had to chase. It was a case of being calm and collected at all times, not panicking, and I think it was especially good for the junior players. We had quite a few first-timers on the tour, and for them to see something like that was a pretty good experience, especially for the first time they played. So I think there were a lot of positives to be drawn out of the tour, and a lot of things we can look at and say well, "This is what we could have done," especially with the bowlers.

For myself, I'll speak to my physio and probably play in the club game this weekend. Depending on how I feel, I would like to make myself available for next week's three-day and one-day games, but I could see myself playing only in the one-day games for the next couple of weeks or so.

Unless I have another injury then I think I would definitely be ready to tour India; Sri Lanka is in a month's time. That would be a challenge, as I've been there and bowled there before, but I'm not sure they would send any more seamers there anyway; I'm sure they just want spinners there, which is fair enough. So I don't feel pressured to get back into it, which is a good thing as I can take my time and work on strengthening my legs. I'm very confident I'll be going on the tour to India because I've got a lot of time now to recover.