March 20, 2000

Tour diary: everything to play for after two days

Well, it's the end of a very long second day, about seven and half hours of Test cricket in all. A slow over rate from the West Indians added to a day already lengthened as a result of the play lost on the first day. However, for the Test cricket enthusiast it was a thoroughly enthralling day of cricket, as has the Test been thus far.

Day one started in the perfect manner, with Andy Flower winning the toss and putting them in on a wicket that had a tinge of green to it. Heath Streak confirmed the captain's decision with a wicket with his third ball, Griffiths lbw for 0. The ball was nipping around a bit and the bowlers got it in the right areas. However, countless play and misses and a dropped catch later, we managed to get our second wicket through a run out. The ball was pushed into the covers and Brian Murphy charged after it, threw it to the bowler on the swivel and Neil Johnson obliged by taking the bails off (the ball only nicked the leg stump as he had to underarm it some two metres) and Gayle was out for 33.

Lunch came and went and we managed to bowl only one ball after the break when suddenly the heavens opened. It rained on and off for about two and half hours and the ground was very wet; we thought that we would never get back on, but the umpires thought differently and we had about forty-five minutes at them. We were not complaining as this was a horrible time for them to have to see out.

The bowlers were on the mark again and it was a matter of time before we got another wicket (a very important one at that) Chanderpaul edging Olonga to Andy Flower. Gripper missed a chance by Ambrose off Murphy just before the close which would have had them four down. However, we were reasonably happy when stumps were drawn. West Indies 73 for 3.

We knew we would have to do much the same on day two, get the ball in the right area and put pressure on them. This we did straight away with Ambrose edging Streak to Flower. We continued to apply pressure, Streaky bowling particularly well, as he had done on day one, and we got our second wicket of the day, Campbell lbw to Streaky.

Murphy took over from Streak and continued the good work, trapping Adams in front and having an aggressive Ridley Jacobs caught and bowled. We probably let it slip a bit towards the end, mixed in with a few dropped catches, as we should have bowled them out for 160, but 187 was a moderate total and a job well done by the bowlers - Streak in particular was outstanding.

Time to bat and get stuck in against their battery of fast bowlers. We got off to the worst possible start - Johnson lbw first ball to Ambrose and then Grant Flower edging Walsh to slip (we were 0 for 2). Goodwin and Gripper led a mini recovery before a fluent Goodwin edged Walsh to slip and we were tottering at 27 for 3 at tea. The captain joined Gripper and both played extremely cautious and gutsy innings to put us firmly into the game again; both were unbeaten at the end with Flower reaching his half century just before the close.

With Zimbabwe at 109, there is all to play for on day three with this Test match extremely well poised; my next report will reveal all ...