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A chicken farmer trumps England

Eddo Brandes blows away the pros with an inspired spell of fast bowling

Nagraj Gollapudi

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Eddo Brandes cleans up Robin Smith during the course of a remarkable spell © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Eddo Brandes | Dave Houghton
Series/Tournaments: Benson & Hedges World Cup

Eddo Brandes
4 for 21 v England, 35th match, 1992

"This is the problem with you amateur sides, you don't know how to just rotate the strike and take singles. You watch the professionals come out of the lunch. They'll just knock the ball into the gaps and run their ones and twos and win this game easily." Condescending words of wisdom from the mouth of Geoffrey Boycott to a distraught Dave Houghton, Zimbabwe's captain, at the lunch break of the minnows' last game against England, one of the tournament favourites.

Zimbabwe had been skittled for 134, and Houghton recalls: "Geoffrey came and saw me during the lunch time. He came to the change looking for some autographs on some cricket balls." The old pro's derision was backed up by facts - England had just lost one game out of six while Zimbabwe, just at the doorstep of getting Test status, had been unlucky at least on two occasions, against Sri Lanka and India.

The outback town of Albury provided a pitch that kept low and had variable bounce. After an embarrassing batting display, Houghton just asked his men for one thing. "There are about 8000 people out here who still need some entertainment and the only way we can entertain is to make this game go as long as possible," he said.

Brandes got Gooch first ball: a low-inswinging yorker beat England's best batsman for pace and hit the pads. Brandes had been erratic throughout the tournament, but some work with John Traicos in the nets to improve on his accuracy allowed him to grow in confidence. The momentum was Zimbabwe's now. Brandes followed that with two more wickets in quick succession. Soon afterwards, he got past the defence of his best friend, Graeme Hick, whom he had warned only the last evening: "Good luck tomorrow, but I think you'll be my bunny."

Houghton bowled Brandes through and he responded without complaint even if it meant bending his back under the uncompromising sun. "David was outstanding as captain that day," recalls Traicos, one of the weatherbeaten veterans. His men responded and the runs were drying up even as Neil Fairbrother and Alec Stewart forged a partnership. Zimbabwe knew that it was just a matter of a wicket. Ali Shah got the prized wicket of Stewart, breaking the 52-run stand, and Iain Butchart got two more. England needed 23 off the last three overs which became 10 off the last, with the final pair of Gladstone Small and Phil Tuffnell at the crease.

Houghton asked his bowler, Malcolm Jarvis, just one thing - bowl to a length. An obedient Jarvis came up with a slower one first ball and Small, already committed, gave an easy catch. Zimbabwe were victors by nine runs, and Boycott slipped out of the commentary room on cat's feet.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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