The Captain's View - Zimbabwe in Pakistan (14 January 1999)

14 Jan 1999


Alistair Campbell

John Ward continues his interview with Alistair Campbell, who talks about Zimbabwe's one-day cricket series in Pakistan.

We left Dubai for Karachi by air the day after playing the final against India in Sharjah.

We had to check in at Dubai airport at about five in the morning. We were naturally overweight, with all our kit and baggage, and there was a lot of haggling. Emirates, one of the sponsors of the World Cup, wouldn't let us on their aeroplane! The guys were looking forward to doing some shopping in the duty-free, but we only managed to get on the plane by about five minutes, when they finally allowed us to board with all our baggage. This is one of the frustrating things that tend to irk you on tour.

The flight to Karachi lasts only about an hour and a half. Karachi is perhaps not the nicest place in the world to visit, but the airport was quite nice, very clean and well up to international standards.

But there were a lot of people milling around trying to be officious, claiming to be journalists or to represent this and that local board. Still early in the morning, it was the last thing we needed, but I suppose it's part and parcel of the job to deal with them and give the interviews.

We eventually got to the hotel and had a bit of a nap. We were pretty tired, having had that braai on the beach the night before. We had the rest of the day off, followed by two days of practice.

It was winter there, but it still got pretty hot during the day. The first day they had forgotten to organise any mineral water for us and the guys were pretty thirsty, but there was nothing organised, so some of them had to go to a shop down the road and get us some water.

But we had a good practice; it was a change to be playing on Pakistani wickets now. The batsmen had good long nets and the bowlers worked out the lengths they had to bowl. The spinners also worked out the pace to bowl at; they have to bowl a bit quicker there, as the pitches are a bit slower, and the slower you bowl the more time the batsman has to play his shots.

The one-dayers were first, so we were still in one-day mode. We had a practice game in Karachi; there were a few good players in the opposition, four or five men who had played for Pakistan. We got off to a disastrous start; we bowled wides and no-balls and their batsmen started slogging, and they scored about fifty-odd in four overs.

In fact we pulled it back pretty well; they only got 230. That pitch was pretty flat, and when the Australians had played there 300 was a par score. We won it quite easily by five wickets in about 45 overs. It was quite a good start to the tour and kept us on our winning wavelength.

First One-Day International (Gujranwala). ZIMBABWE 237 (Johnson 74, Campbell 42; Saqlain 4/35, Shahid Afridi 3/45) lost to PAKISTAN 241/6 (Aamer Sohail 91, Yousuf Youhana 45) by four wickets.

In the first game we began particularly well, with a great opening stand. I had gone into the middle order now, which we decided would be best for the team. In the match against India in Sharjah I got an eighty batting at number six, and we had been struggling a bit in the middle order for someone to bat like that. In the match against Karachi we were four down for 60, and I was batting at six again and got eighty-odd not out again.

Neil Johnson had been going in at three anyway, and he had opened in South Africa, so we decided to push him up one. Murray Goodwin likes batting at three, but he had been going in four, so we decided to put him at three, with Andy Flower staying at four, and I would go five.

So that's why we did it, and in this match we were 116 for one in 25 overs. Grant Flower and Johnson gave us a great start, and Murray Goodwin was playing well before a needless run-out. Then we slumped to 161 for six and lost all our momentum.

We managed to get it up to 237, but with that sort of start we should have got 280 or 290. We were pretty disappointed and knew we were 30 or 40 runs shy when we went into the field. But, as we so often say in our team talks, one brilliant catch, one run-out, one good spell of bowling and you're back in the game.

We got off to a reasonable start and had them three down for 87, and then 145 for five. They were up with the run rate, but still needed about five or six an over. Moin Khan batted really well, getting 35 off 26 balls, which knocked the stuffing out of us. Youhana batted through to get 55 not out, and Azhar Mahmood batted with him to finish us off.

It was pretty disappointing, because we knew that if we batted half-decently and got 270 they would have been under huge pressure. It's nice to take control of the game in the first 15 overs as we had done, because that's when you wrest the initiative. So we were right in the game, cruising at six an over, and then just threw it away.

Second One-Day International (Sheikhapura). PAKISTAN 211 (Streak 3/40) lost to ZIMBABWE 212/4 (Johnson 103) by six wickets.

We went into this match knowing we had to win it to keep the series alive, but we were confident that we could do so. It was a good batting pitch, and teams winning the toss like to put the opposition in to bat and chase a target.

It is more difficult batting first because you have to estimate what is a good total to aim for on that pitch. Sometimes you aim too high and put too much pressure on your batsmen; you end up losing wickets and that makes it easier for the other side.

This time we won the toss and put Pakistan in on a good pitch. We got off to a great start, taking three of their wickets for 36, and after that they were always struggling. Our bowlers bowled well and we held our catches, and Pakistan were bowled out for 211 on a pitch where they should have been looking for at least 260 or 270.

We were always confident of chasing that target with some ease, but we realised that with Wasim and Mohammad Akram, and Saqlain is really dangerous, we couldn't afford to be overconfident. Neil Johnson played particularly well and got 103, his first one-day hundred; Grant Flower played very well to give us a great start, and they put on 101 for the first wicket.

At this stage we were way above the required rate. Murray Goodwin played well for 30; Craig Evans failed, but he got a good ball from Saqlain, the one that goes the other way and is really hard to read. Andy Flower finished it off for us as usual; Johnson got out just before the end, so I had to go in and make one run to win the match.

This was a very convincing performance, I thought; we played really well when under pressure to get back in the series, and the guys showed some good battle to fight back and do that. So we took hard from that; we knew that if we played our best we could put these guys under terrific pressure. If you let them have their own way they're a hard side to beat, but if you get amongst them you always have a chance.

Third One-Day International (Rawalpindi). PAKISTAN 302/6 (Saeed Anwar 73, Ijaz Ahmed 132) beat ZIMBABWE 191 (Andy Flower 61; Saqlain Mushtaq 3/27) by 111 runs.

This was another great batting pitch, as they all are at this time of year in Pakistan. We knew that this was probably a 280-290 wicket, so we told ourselves that if we could get them all out for 280 we were in with a good chance here.

We looked like doing that at one stage, until Ijaz played wonderfully well. Some of the shots he played were unbelievable, and when he is in that sort of form there is no one to compare with him in one-day cricket -- walking across his stumps and picking any gap he wanted to.

Even when they reached 300 we still thought we had a chance, but 300 is actually a big psychological barrier. It puts us under pressure to score at a run a ball, which is always difficult from the first ball. We never really came to terms with it; we did all right in patches, such as when Andy Flower and Murray Goodwin were together, playing well with 51 for the third wicket and getting us back in the groove.

But we were never really there once we had lost myself, Wishart and Rennie in quick succession; someone has to play like Superman to get us out of a situation like that.

One of the criticisms that can be levelled at us is that whenever we got to the crunch games we didn't live up to expectations; we got a hiding both times. Maybe the public look at it and say, "Well, at least they did get there," but the guys who were in it knew we should have done better.

We were playing good cricket and beating good sides. We can't afford the sort of attitude that says, "We've beaten them once so it's been a good tour." We need to make sure that when we get into contention we go on to win; that's the difference between winners and losers.

But we did gain some experience of how we need to play in crunch games, and hopefully the guys will have learned from all this. In fact, I know they have learned, so when it comes again they have a bit more experience behind them, and they know what they need to do right this time instead of what they did wrong last time.

We took some heart, despite losing 2-1, in that we had never won a one-day game in Pakistan before. The biggest thing was that we realised that we could beat these guys, and we realised that going into the Test series.

In the next article Alistair Campbell gives his views on Zimbabwe's first series victory in Test cricket.