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Back in 1992-93, the Indians obliged Zimbabwe with a hastily arranged tour which included the home country's inaugural Test. Zimbabwe duly surprised the cricketing world by forcing India to fight hard to avoid defeat.
The Indians' second tour was again arranged at short notice, when the Mini World Cup in Bangladesh caused the cancellation of what would have been Zimbabwe's first visit from the West Indians. And again Zimbabwe caused widespread surprise - this time by winning a thrilling match, only their second Test victory.
This success was all the more creditable given that they were missing four key players, while India were at full strength. Grant Flower, ending a run of 30 consecutive Tests, Paul Strang and Guy Whittall were injured: Eddo Brandes, despite inspiring victory in the third one-day international, was still not fit enough for five-day cricket. On the other hand, they were strengthened by Neil Johnson, the former South Africa A and Leicestershire all-rounder. He had returned to live in his native Zimbabwe and was cleared to represent them on the eve of the Test.
Players and public alike were delighted by the long-awaited success. For several years, Zimbabwe had been a talented if underestimated side which competed well but failed to achieve results, apart from the one-day whitewash of England in 1996-97. As captain Alistair Campbell commented, you only learn to win by winning.
The Indians started the tour by taking the first two one-day internationals. But Zimbabwe played with a new purpose in the final game, which coach Dave Houghton attributed to the return of Brandes. For the first time, the players knew they had an attack capable of bowling out the opposition, he said. Until then, Heath Streak had carried the burden alone. Although Brandes missed the Test, the return of pace bowler Henry Olonga, for his first appearance in two years, again gave the bowling the fire-power it needed. Olonga had been omitted from the one-day matches because of his inaccuracy and, as Houghton said, because they wanted him to concentrate on what he does best: bowling fast. Olonga, who had become Zimbabwe's first black Test player during their first win, over Pakistan in 1994-95, was given the match award this time. India, meanwhile, added to their dismal away record; they have won only one Test abroad, against Sri Lanka, since beating England in 1986.
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