Mashonaland v Manicaland, Day 1, Mutare September 12, 2003

Flower breaks thumb as Gripper digs in

Trevor Gripper demonstrated his eagerness to tour Australia with a dedicated century, as Manicaland dominated the first day of their match against Mashonaland at the picturesque Mutare Sports Club. But one man who seems unlikely to make the trip is Grant Flower, Zimbabwe's only remaining Test centurion. Flower, fielding in the slips, has reportedly broken his right thumb in attempting a low catch, and is therefore likely to miss the two-Test tour that begins at the end of the month.

But Gripper, in his first match as a `hired hand' for Manicaland, made good use of some unimpressive bowling and unimaginative field placings on a fast outfield. He batted throughout the day to record his highest first-class score, 160 not out. Next best was the allrounder Gary Brent, who chipped in with a valuable 36 as Manicaland closed on 333 for 6.

The pitch at Mutare Sports Club, renowned as a featherbed, had more grass than usual and Mashonaland were suckered into choosing to bowl first after winning the toss. Their pacemen did find a hint of seam and swing movement, but not enough to vindicate their decision, although the ball carried more than usual. Neil Ferreira was an early victim, caught behind for 8 off Waddington Mwayenga.

Andy Blignaut had a difficult time with the ball. In England he developed James Anderson's habit of watching his feet when he bowled, with the result that he didn't know where the ball was going. He has now corrected that habit, but instead no longer knows where his feet are going. He bowled one no-ball after another - 26 in 17 overs during the day.

Gripper's innings aside, the standard of cricket was not high and Mashonaland looked anything but champions. Apart from a couple of overs by Douglas Hondo, who was left languishing in the outfield for the entire afternoon session, none of the bowlers looked dangerous, although Grant Flower was allowed to bowl a couple of long, economical spells for three wickets. On the other hand, three batsmen got themselves out to poor shots when in the twenties and looking capable of playing major innings.