The Zimbabweans in Bangladesh, 2001-02

Utpal Shuvro

Bangladesh's first overseas Test tour had been to Zimbabwe in April 2001. Seven months later, Zimbabwe reciprocated, taking part in Bangladesh's first home series of more than one Test. They would have repeated their earlier whitewash of Bangladesh - two Test wins and three in one-day internationals - if bad weather had not robbed them of a certain victory in the First Test at Dhaka. It was Bangladesh's first draw after defeats in their first five Tests. But Zimbabwe duly won the next match, at Chittagong, and then overwhelmed their hosts in the three one-day games.

There were no first-class matches apart from the Tests. Zimbabwe were in the middle of a busy season, and thought they had enough knowledge of the subcontinent to handle Test cricket's newest entrants without practice. They proved right.

Zimbabwe had their own problems, however, with player-administrator relations at a new low. Alistair Campbell, their former captain and the only man who had appeared in all their 56 Tests, was dropped, as was another senior player, Guy Whittall. The official explanation was poor form, but it was widely believed that they were being taught a lesson. Zimbabwe's musical chairs continued as the inexperienced Brian Murphy, who had taken over as captain in Sharjah (page 1353), handed over to Stuart Carlisle.

Since Bangladesh's visit, Zimbabwe had suffered a 16-match losing streak in one-day cricket. But all these problems evaporated as soon as they took on Bangladesh again. The gulf in experience clearly showed: in the Tests, the home bowlers lacked firepower, and their batsmen showed they were yet to learn patience and the art of building innings. The one-day series was expected to be closer, because Bangladesh were far more used to limited overs, but ended in even greater disappointment.

Bangladesh did see some encouraging signs. The 18-year-old pace bowler Mashrafe bin Mortaza gave some bite to an otherwise innocuous attack. Eight wickets at 27.12 in the Tests and four in the one-day internationals made him easily their best bowler. On the batting front, Habibul Bashar showed growing maturity. After he was caught behind off his first ball of the series, he scored 65, 108 (his maiden Test hundred) and 76. His aggregate of 249 was the highest for either team, though his nearest rival, Craig Wishart, who scored 208, played two innings to Habibul's four.

Wishart was one of three Zimbabweans who hit centuries at Chittagong; he had also made 94 at Dhaka, leading a fightback from 89 for five to 431. Trevor Gripper, like Wishart, made a maiden hundred, and Andy Flower's unbeaten 114 kept him on top of the PwC Test ratings, which he had led since September. His brother, Grant, was one of the unexpected bowling successes of the trip, taking eight for 104 at Chittagong with his occasional left-arm spin, while the pace bowler, Travis Friend, advanced his claims as an all-rounder at Dhaka, scoring a career-best 81 on top of seven wickets.

Curiously, both teams changed captains during the tour. Murphy, the little-known leg-spinner who had succeeded Heath Streak in October, fractured his finger in the nets during his first Test in charge, and had to return home. It was an even sadder story for Bangladesh's first Test captain, the off-spinner Naimur Rahman. A year earlier, he had taken six wickets in Bangladesh's inaugural Test against India, only to be reported for a suspect action. After working with the Indian master Erapalli Prasanna, he was given the all-clear. But with his action changed, Naimur was not the same bowler: he took only five wickets in his next four Tests, and none at all in this series. He was stripped of the captaincy after the Tests, replaced by the wicket-keeper, Khaled Masud, and omitted from the one-day series and the New Zealand tour.

Match reports for

Tour Match: Sri Lanka Board XI v Zimbabweans at Moratuwa, Dec 1, 2001
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Tour Match: Sri Lanka A v Zimbabweans at Colombo (Police), Dec 3, 2001
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1st Match: Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe at Colombo (SSC), Dec 8, 2001
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2nd Match: West Indies v Zimbabwe at Colombo (SSC), Dec 9, 2001
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4th Match: Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe at Colombo (RPS), Dec 12, 2001
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6th Match: West Indies v Zimbabwe at Kandy, Dec 16, 2001
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Tour Match: Sri Lanka Board XI v Zimbabweans at Colombo (PSS), Dec 21-23, 2001
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1st Test: Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe at Colombo (SSC), Dec 27-31, 2001
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2nd Test: Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe at Kandy, Jan 4-7, 2002
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3rd Test: Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe at Galle, Jan 12-15, 2002
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Match reports for

1st Test: Bangladesh v Zimbabwe at Dhaka, Nov 8-12, 2001
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2nd Test: Bangladesh v Zimbabwe at Chittagong, Nov 15-19, 2001
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Tour Match: Chittagong Division v Zimbabweans at Chittagong, Nov 21, 2001
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1st ODI: Bangladesh v Zimbabwe at Chittagong, Nov 23, 2001
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2nd ODI: Bangladesh v Zimbabwe at Dhaka, Nov 25, 2001
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3rd ODI: Bangladesh v Zimbabwe at Dhaka, Nov 26, 2001
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© John Wisden & Co