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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Andy Flower cracks double ton as India win series 1-0

Nobody likes to see a Test match end in a tame draw. On Wednesday, a nation of Indians and a reasonably full Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium at Nagpur were certainly disappointed. But the Zimbabweans are not here to please. They are here for the serious business of doing their best in a Test series. And that they did. In a brave display of gritty batting at its best, the Zimbabweans batted more than three days to eke out a draw. The man who distinguished himself the most was undoubtedly Andy Flower. Ending the day on 232 not out, the Zimbabwean stumper became the fourth Zimbabwean, after Dave Houghton (266), Guy Whittall (203*) and brother Grant Flower (201*) to score a double hundred in Test cricket. After waiting 47 Tests and 84 innings, Alistair Campbell, another star in the Zimbabwean batting firmament, notched up his maiden Test century. Zimbabwe piled up 504/6 in addition to their first innings score of 382 and the second Test ended in a draw. India however won the two-Test series 1-0.

Early in the day, the hosts struck two early blows after Alistair Campbell reached his maiden Test century. Minutes before Campbell reached his hundred, Andy Flower brought up his ninth Test century. The Zimbabwean stumper has been by far the classiest of the batsmen and it came as no surprise to anyone that he crossed the three figure mark early on the final day.

Much of India's hopes rested on the broad shoulders of Javagal Srinath and the Karnataka speedster took a bit of time to warm up. Pitching the ball up to Campbell, he coaxed the batsman to come on the front foot and drive. Taking up the offer, Campbell blazed three boundaries, one through covers, another past mid off and the third wide of mid on. The last of those boundaries took Campbell to his first ever Test hundred. However, the fairytale did not continue for Campbell. The momentum he had gathered and indeed the adrenaline rush he must have felt at notching up his century led him to play a rash stroke that cost him his wicket. Attempting to hook a quick bouncer that was well outside off stump from Zaheer Khan, Campbell could only find the waiting hands of Sunil Joshi at square leg. Campbell's 253-minute essay yielded 102 runs and was punctuated by 15 hits to the fence.

Grant Flower who batted so well in the first innings breezed in and out of the crease. Although there was never much doubt in the fact that Andy Flower would seal up one end, Dirk Viljoen at the other end was very much an unknown quantity. Although he has played some useful innings in limited overs internationals, his credentials in the longer version of the game were unproven thus far. However, today Viljoen gave a good account of himself. Resisting a fiery spell from Zaheer Khan during which he was struck on the helmet and body more than once Viljoen finally fell to Sharandeep Singh. Tickling a ball from outside off to Ganguly at slip, Viljoen was genuinely disappointed as he left the crease after over two and a half hours.

Viljoen's innings of 38 helped forge a partnership of 113 with Andy Flower. Although he did eventually fall, the time he spent at the wicket all but ruined India's chances of forcing a result in this game. Heath Streak helped himself to 29 runs before the match was drawn. Andy Flower's contribution to this Test match cannot be underestimated. The southpaw has adjusted brilliantly to batting in the subcontinent. With Zimbabwe having to declare the innings closed in Delhi, he was left stranded on 183 not out. There were no such compulsions in this Test match. Batting the whole of the last day out, Andy Flower's marathon innings of over nine hours took him to 232 not out. Hitting 30 boundaries and two sixes, Andy Flower played just about every shot in the book. The fact that he struck reverse sweeps to the fence speaks volumes for the confidence with which he played. For his efforts with the bat, he was rightly adjudged both the man of the match and the man of the series.

For the Indian bowlers there was no joy. Although the three mediumpacers bowled with fire in different sessions, they were unlucky not to pick up more wickets than they did. All in all, five days of good hard Test cricket showed that Zimbabwe were well on their way to becoming a very serious player in world cricket.