January 19, 2002

Interview with Andy Campbell

Zimbabwe Board XI v Gauteng B

Alistair `Two-Ton' Campbell is ready and prepared to join the national team in India - if the selectors choose him. They dropped him from the team that toured Sharjah and Bangladesh, but they did invite him to tour Sri Lanka at the last minute. He felt unable to go at such short notice as he felt he was not mentally prepared. His two centuries for the Zimbabwe Board XI in their match against Gauteng B should have answered all the questions the selectors and anybody else felt inclined to ask. Here he talks to CricInfo about his innings and the match.

It's the first time I've hit two centuries in the same match and it's good to get some runs. I needed to score runs to get back into the national side and I've done that, which was all that was required of me. They dropped me because of lack of form, and now I've scored some runs, that augurs well for the future. There's another B game in Benoni, and then hopefully I'll be selected for the India tour.

I've been batting well of late, scoring runs in the latter half of Kenya, and some more runs here. It's a lovely batting wicket here and when I went in there I just wanted to bat some time; I hit as straight as I could and it worked out.

The facilities here at Kwekwe are brilliant. The boys feel that Kwekwe is a good up-and-coming ground; Ken Connelly, Colin Sanders and the board here have put in a lot of work to try and keep it up to scratch, and it's a lovely wicket here. They've done the outfield superbly, the hospitality is always good and the hotel we stay in [the Golden Mile, run by Colin Sanders] is good, so it's a good venue. More money should be pumped in here and it can elevate itself in time. The Aussies are playing a warm-up game here, which is a good coup for Kwekwe.

Turning to the match against Gauteng, it's a good batting wicket, and if a side gets in first and they get their heads down, it's always going to be a hard toil for the bowlers. They got 350 and we should probably have restricted them to around 300. We as a team did not bat that well in the first innings, but second time around we showed just how good the pitch was. Apart from my hundred, Richie Sims played really well and Guy Whittall came in and finished it.

We've had two of those games now - in these three-day games you have to try and declare to make games of it, and the same happened in Potchefstroom, when they declared and left us 65-odd overs to get 320, and we chased that successfully after batting poorly in the first innings. So maybe that's the way to win three-day cricket! Lull the other side into a false sense of security - they think you're not a very good batting side after your first innings and then you bat properly the second time round.

It was a hard pitch for our seamers to bowl on, but I do think our seamers are getting better and better. Campbell Macmillan got it in the right area, and Brighton Watambwa as well. Pricey [Raymond Price] struggled a bit early in the first innings, but in the second innings he got his action back a bit and bowled really well. Guy Whittall was as Guy Whittall can be, right on the tickey and bowled very economically. So you can't really look too much into the bowling aspect of things because it was such a good batting wicket, and I thought the guys stuck reasonably well to the disciplines. But obviously there is room for improvement.

I can't account for the difference between our batting performances in the first innings and in the second innings! The first innings of most of our matches haven't been that convincing, Kenya as well - I don't know what it is! Maybe it's a psychological thing - who knows? It's just one of those things we're going to have to get over, because first-innings runs are important. It makes the job in the latter half of the game so much easier if we bat properly in the first innings, and we've got to do that a lot better than we are doing.

Guy Whittall I thought played really well, and in the second innings he showed exactly how he can bat. He showed he still has what it takes. Pricey bowled really well in the second innings and got four wickets, and bowled well in the one-day game here today. If you look at our spinning options in the national side, which look very thin at this stage with Grant Flower and Doug Marillier doing the job in Sri Lanka at the moment, I think Pricey has definitely got a big shout. He struggles a bit with a low arm, but when he does get it up he turns the ball and gets some bounce. He really is a good proposition.

There are a few other guys coming in: Richie Sims batted really well in the one innings, and he needs to play a lot more B team cricket. But the pitch wasn't really conducive to seam bowling, so I can't really comment on the two seamers who played for us. Pommie Mbangwa bowled really well for us today in the one-dayer as well - got the ball in the right area and picked up three for nothing yet again.

Gauteng have I think some bowlers who will be good on different wickets that assist seamers. Gerry de Bruin, their opening bowler, is only 19 years old and he has a bit of gas when he wants to put it in; he bowled some good spells. Apart from that, they're pretty much textbook standard, line-and-length bowlers, put the ball in the right areas at times.

And then there was the off-spinner, Siraaj Conrad, who put the balls in the right area on a helpful pitch and bowled decently enough without being really threatening. They didn't have anybody who was outstanding, or the game would have been different, wouldn't it? But it was one of those games where the bowlers suffered.

All their batsmen got a few runs, while their wicket-keeper-batsman Mathew Street got a first-innings 148, played really well. He's a compact player, didn't try to hit the ball too hard, nudged the ball in the gaps and played like a really sound opening batsman should. He saw off the new ball and then was able to expand somewhat towards the end of his innings. He paced it really nicely, I thought.

It was a good game of cricket, especially for the batsmen, and everyone who comes here to Kwekwe for the cricket has a good time. The hospitality is really good, and hopefully Kwekwe will continue to get these games and tour games - and maybe sometime in the future an international. If they can get some infrastructure up here and get enough money - that's what it's all about these days, isn't it! - they're putting in a new drainage system here and some turf nets, a better pavilion, a better players' area, stands, a good press facility, then they're ready.