September 26, 2003

'I'm itching to bowl at Australian batsmen' - Blignaut

Wisden CricInfo staff

Andy Blignaut, the Zimbabwean allrounder, has got his hunger back and is now looking to feast on Australia's batting order. He went into a self-imposed 14-month exile from cricket until a year ago after a furious spat with Zimbabwe's cricketing authorities.

With the dispute firmly consigned to history, Blignaut is now relishing the prospect of Zimbabwe's first Test against Australia in Australia. "I had a bit of a problem with some of the admin people, and people around me and I was not then really focussed on the game at that point, so I thought it was better just to step back for a while," he explained on Friday.

"That is well behind me now, and I am itching to bowl at the Australian batsmen," he said after a training session with team-mates ahead of next month's two Test series. "I have recaptured the hunger."

Blignaut has already made a promising comeback after his stay away from the game, showing good touch as an allrounder in the World Cup and in a Test series in England earlier this year. "I think that Australian pitches could be quite good for my type of bowling," he said. "Australian pitches are bouncier, and I certainly like that. But bowling really goes to basics. You have to keep the ball in the right area and give yourself the best chance. The Australian top order is very strong, but if you get the ball on the spot it takes the ball to move only about two inches (5cm) and your luck can be in."

Blignaut will open the bowling with Heath Streak. "Obviously, if we cannot perform well, there will be a lot more pressure on the guys who have to back us up," he said. "It is up to us to do the job. It is a privilege to play with a guy of Heath's calibre. I especially like to play against the Australians. It's a great challenge, and it gets the adrenaline going."

Bruce Reid, Zimbabwe's bowling coach, has been impressing on his charges the importance of length on Australian pitches. "He has emphasised the importance of getting the batsmen to play as much as possible," said Blignaut. "He has taught us a lot -- we just have to keep it in the head and carry it out on the field."