November 8, 2000

Campbell opens tour with solid century

There was nothing dramatic about the first day's play at the Nehru Stadium in Indore. The medium-sized crowd that gathered was given a hint of what was actually possible. On winning the toss, Guy Whittall decided to kick off Zimbabwe's tour of India by having a bit of a bat. The Zimbabweans did just that. After piling up 322/6 they declared and managed to scalp an NCA wicket in the dying moments of the day.

To start the proceedings for the National Cricket Academy team Rakesh Patel and Mrithyunjay Tripathi ran in hard. Both established a good rhythm and troubled the Zimbabwe batsmen. On a wicket that had very little on offer for the bowlers, Patel worked up a decent pace and his three wickets were well deserved. If he impressed the three national selectors who were present at the venue, the spinners did nothing to catch the eye. Sharandeep Singh bowling his offspinners and Vidyuth Sivaramakrishnan bowling left arm spin failed to make an impact. While bowling well in patches, the duo served up far too many loose deliveries.

Stuart Carlisle who is known for his steady approach to batting was unusually brisk in his manner and took just 83 balls to make his 61 runs. If Carlisle was steady, Alistair Campbell was the epitome of safety. The talented southpaw put his head down and applied himself perfectly. Taking very few chances, Campbell chalked up the runs with ease. Using his feet well to the spinners, Campbell faltered just once - when he was on 44 and edged a catch to Sriram in the slips. Fortunately for him the chance was floored and he strode resolutely on. When he brought up his century with a well placed single the crowd cheered lustily. If nothing he was endeared to the crowd when he took a hard knock on the helmet from Tripathi and continued manfully despite bleeding profusely.

When Zimbabwe declared their innings closed at 322/6 Campbell was unbeaten on 114. His innings included 12 fours and three hits that sailed over the ropes. The biggest of those was a clout off Mohammed Kaif that disappeared back over the bowler's head.

With just nine overs to play out and light fading gradually, Sridharan Sriram and Nikhil Doru came out to bat. While Doru was flamboyant, Sriram stuck to his cautious method. Driving through the off side with confidence and skill, Doru raced to 14 in no time. Unfortunately for the lad, he drove hard at a ball wide of off stump and dragged the ball back onto his stumps. Playing away from his body, the Rajasthan opener's first mistake cost him his wicket.

Sharandeep Singh joined Sriram out in the middle and the pair safely saw NCA to stumps. Sriram was unbeaten on a patiently compiled 8 and the NCA were 28/1. Tomorrow will be little more than a day of bowling practice for the visitors. It will be interesting to see how they adapt to conditions in the subcontinent. At a first glance, the opening bowlers looked less than sharp. Bryan Strang was accurate, but clearly lacked pace. While Travis Friend managed to get the ball to move a shade in the air, he did not get much nip off the wicket. If the Zimbabweans are to win a Test match or more on this tour, their bowlers will have to get into groove in a hurry.