November 14, 2000

Rennie gets his tour under way as Zimbabwe declare early

Zimbabwe are taking Carl Rackemann's advice too seriously one reckons. On the second day of their second warm-up game, against the Board President's XI, they gave the crowd at the Nahar Singh Stadium in Faridabad very little to cheer about. Refusing to even attempt to play for a result, the Zimbabwe team used another day of their warm-up routine to practise hard. As in Indore, they played doggedly from ball one, not aiming to respond in kind to the Board President's XI total. Declaring overnight on 314/5, Board President's XI skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar put the ball firmly in Guy Whittall's court. By making just 236/5 off 73 overs, the Zimbabweans banished what little interest the last day held. Presumably to give their fast bowlers another go, they took the field with fifteen overs left to be delivered. As it turned out, they managed to send down twentyone overs and still could not make early inroads. Board President's XI made a steady 52 for no loss.

Earlier in the day, Grant Flower and Gavin Rennie opening the innings dug in for a long stint at the crease. Starting off, they had to reckon with Debashish Mohanty and Santosh Saxena. While he has been successful on wickets that offer assistance, there is very little record of Mohanty doing well on placid tracks in the past. The batting strip at the Nahar Singh Stadium is as placid as they come, and this rendered the Orissa mediumpacer weaponless. Realising this, Kanitkar bowled him for just seven overs, (7-4-7-0) and banished him to the outfield. The youth of Saxena made him a shade quicker off the wicket and through the air and this resulted in him being bowled for thirteen overs. He too went wicketless and conceded 51 runs.

Operating in tandem, left arm spinner Rahul Sanghvi and offspinner Aashish Kapoor tested the Zimbabwe batsmen more than the mediumpacers had. Sanghvi gave the ball plenty of air and tempted the Zimbabwe batsmen to drive. However, Grant Flower and Rennie were in no mood for positive strokes and chose to counter the spinners with bat-pad defence instead. This resulted in a fair few errors of judgement and chances to the close in fielders. Despite numerous dives and more appeals, Abbas Ali fielding close to the wicket simply could not hold onto the ball when there was bat involved. When the first wicket fell, it was not caught close, but clean bowled, as Grant Flower played down the wrong line to a straight ball from Kapoor. He was on 49 and Zimbabwe had advanced, albeit painstakingly slowly, to 94/1.

Although he lost his partner, Gavin Rennie did not falter, playing himself in with great determination. In an innings that spanned almost four hours, and witnessed the coming and going of four batsmen, Rennie made the top score of the Zimbabwe innings, a dogged 79. When he was eventually dismissed, it was not before Stuart Carlisle (4) and Trevor Madondo (26) had made brief, if unfruitful appearances out in the middle. Rennie was finally sent back when Abbas Ali dived full length to his right and pulled of a sharp catch. Virender Shewag was the man who sent down the offspinner that accounted for Rennie.

Skipper Guy Whittall played a few lusty blows off Shewag in the company of the promoted Mluleki Nkala as Zimbabwe sauntered past the two hundred run mark. After playing just one over, Nkala top edged a ball from Shewag to wicketkeeper Dahiya and Zimbabwe were 201/5. This brought young leg spinner Brian Murphy to the crease. Having been hit all over the park when he bowled to the Board President's XI team, Murphy was keen to give back a few. He managed two boundaries in a quickfire 14 before Whittall decided that he had seen enough of the bowling. The skipper took the team off with an unbeaten 30 to his name (5 fours, 1 six) at 236/5 off 73 overs.

Seventy eight runs ahead, with just fifteen overs to play, the Board President's XI team sent out Ravneet Ricky and Vijay Dahiya to face the Zimbabweans. Earlier in the day, Dahiya was picked to keep wickets for India in the first Test against the touring Zimbabweans. This seemed to have given the stumper confidence, as he played fluently. The Zimbabweans experimented a bit and this too went in favour of the batsmen. Henry Olonga opened with Nkala while Friend bowled first change. Standby stumper Trevor Madondo was given a chance to peddle his wares behind the stumps. Andy Flower who did not bat, was once again not a part of the action. In the first innings, Dahiya took 18 balls to get off the mark. In his second essay he failed to score off the first ball he faced, but was on his way with the very next ball. Driving through the offside with characteristic short arm jabs, Dahiya made his way to an unbeaten 23 at stumps. Ravneet Ricky too was in better nick in his second essay and had helped himself to 26 not out when the day's play ended. Board President's XI were 52 for no loss and led by 130 runs. The last day's play will inspire a sense of déjà vu. At Indore as is likely here, the game was all but dead before the first ball was delivered on the third day.

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