November 10, 2000

Zimbabwe use final day for practice as match ends in draw

It was a long day for scribes and spectators alike at the Nehru Stadium in Indore. The visiting Zimbabweans did not think it necessary to make a sporting declaration and thereby a match of this game. A complete farce ensued, one in which the Zimbabwe batsmen carried out net practice in the middle. Earlier in the day, National Cricket Academy skipper Reetinder Sodhi was hopeful of an early declaration by the Zimbabweans. He said the NCA team would go after the target, even if the asking rate was around six runs per over. As it turned out, all that was unnecessary.

India also have an irritating habit of bringing batsmen out of a lean patch. Trevor Madondo certainly benefited from this brand of hospitality. After playing a shaky knock in the first innings, Madondo got his eye in well in his second essay. Stroking the ball around the park, Madondo had a good look at a subcontinent wicket. He made 65 before playing all over a straight ball from Vidyuth Sivaramakrishnan.

Having lost out in the first innings, Andy Flower came in next and he displayed what a class player he is. Never in any trouble, Flower worked the ball into the gaps with ease. After making 119 runs, (180 balls, 14 fours) he decided that he had had enough of the Indore heat. Retiring ill, he returned to the comfort of the pavilion and was replaced by acting skipper Guy Whittall.

Stuart Carlisle (39) and Guy Whittall (36 not out) gained a bit of experience batting in Indian conditions. Just when it looked like Zimbabwe would quietly play out the day, they surprised everyone by declaring their innings closed at 320/5. This left NCA with a hugely improbable, and almost statistically impossible, target of 320 off 11 overs. Sridharan Sriram was obviously quite content with his knock in the first innings. In his place, stumper Ajay Ratra opened the innings with Nikhil Doru.

Although Ratra was trapped leg before by Henry Olonga it was really of no consequence. Gautam Gambhir worked the bowling around for an elegant 22 runs while Doru managed 12 not out. NCA had 42/1 and the match ended in a dull draw.

After the NCA lads had declared their innings having secured a lead of just 1 run, one expected Zimbabwe to think on similar lines. Although that would have made for maximum viewing pleasure, one really cannot fault the Zimbabweans for their tactics. They are not here to give the NCA boys a shot at victory against an international side. They are here for the far more serious business of winning a Test series against India. They did all they could to prepare themselves for the same.

Speaking to scribes after the game, acting skipper Guy Whittall said, "We batted almost the whole day because we wanted to shift from the One-Day mode to the Test mode. The Test matches here are the highest priority for us and we wanted to prepare as well as we could for that." When asked why he declared when he did, leaving the NCA boys eleven overs to face, he added, "Henry Olonga didn't get much of a bowl in the first innings. We just wanted to give him another go." That wrapped up a match that left the NCA boys emptyhanded, the Zimbabweans more experienced in Indian conditions and a majority of spectators just plain bored.