April 11, 2001

Flowers power Zimbabwe to 3-0 win over brave Bangladesh

Zimbabwe duly wrapped up their one-day series against Bangladesh with a third consecutive victory, this time at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo and by 36 runs. This was by far the most entertaining match of the three, not surprisingly since the pitch and outfield were in so much better condition than at Harare, and Bangladesh managed to lose with honour.

Bangladesh, hoping for a face-saving victory, had their hopes raised when they reduced their hosts to 39 for three. Then the Flower brothers took over with a fourth-wicket partnership of 148, and the match was prised from their grasp as Zimbabwe totalled a probably unassailable 308 for four. Grant Flower's unbeaten 142 equalled Zimbabwe's previous best one-day score by Dave Houghton against New Zealand in the World Cup of 1987/88.

The match began under unseasonably cloudy skies, but on a good-looking, if slightly green, pitch at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo. Zimbabwe kept the same team again and have thus played the same eleven players throughout the series. Bangladesh made one change, dropping opener Al-Shahriar for 17-year-old all-rounder Mohammad Ashraful.

Zimbabwe batted on winning the toss, but lost three wickets for 39 as the ball moved around early on. Alistair Campbell (0) was given out controversially, caught at the wicket swishing vaguely at a ball well down the leg side, by umpire Russell Tiffin off Manjural Islam, and Dion Ebrahim (5), after one scintillating hit to the point boundary, was caught in the slips off the same bowler. Finally Guy Whittall (26), who had played a positive innings, was bowled by a ball from Mushfiqur Rahman that kept low as he attempted a pull, and dragged it on to his stumps. The Flower brothers came together in an attempt to rescue Zimbabwe from an unexpected crisis.

They did a manful job, although Bangladesh missed two possible chances, one from each, because they did not post a slip after the 15-over restrictions were lifted. Ones and twos came steadily, and gradually the batsmen began to open up, Andy passing 50 with two sweeps (the second a reverse) that almost carried for six. Grant soon followed, and it seemed nothing would stop the brothers until Andy on 80 off 91 balls was out to a rare dismissal off a reverse sweep, superbly caught by Mohammed Sharif. They had added 148 together and transformed the match.

Grant, accompanied by Stuart Carlisle, went on to reach his fourth one-day century, and then unleashed his full range of strokes on the unfortunate bowlers. The 300 came up in the final over and Flower, after spending 113 balls reaching his century, scored another 42 runs off his next 15. Carlisle, batting valuably but overshadowed, scored an unbeaten 42 off 34 balls.

Bangladesh began their innings with the panache of General George Custer, Javed Omar and Mehrab Hossain scoring freely as Heath Streak battled to find his line. Andy Blignaut replaced Streak and broke the opening stand at 46 by bringing the ball back to bowl Mehrab for 13. Ashraful (9) hit two good fours before the accurate Strang had him caught at backward point.

Javed Omar, much more positive than when he carried his bat in the second match, and Habibul Bashar kept the score moving steadily at better than five an over. They were helped by a few uncharacteristic fumbles in the field and a missed stumping chance from Javed, who eventually fell, run out, by a fine throw from Blignaut for 69; 139 for three.

Despite the batsmen's continued enterprise, though, Bangladesh still needed 156 to win off the final 20 overs. The game as a contest began to die as the prospects of a Bangladesh victory became increasingly remote, but there was enough action to keep a disappointing crowd (no doubt due to the weekday timing and the chronic fuel shortage) from being disappointed. Habibul scored 74 off 91 balls, a good innings but not quite at the frenetic pace required, and after his departure at 205 for four the innings subsided gradually. Bangladesh did, however, have the pleasure of recording their highest total in all one-day internationals and, finishing at 272 for eight, they avoided the fate of Custer's troops who fell to the last man.