March 20, 2000

Tour diary: A chance to make history

Well, it's the end of day four and what a Test match it is turning out to be. At the end of my last report I alluded to the fact that day three would be a very pivotal day in this Test match. We needed to bat with the same resolve that Gripper and Flower had shown and try and get a first innings lead.

Walsh and Ambrose again did the bulk of the bowling, and again were outstanding and a little unfortunate. Andy Flower edged Walsh to third slip in the first over of the day and Chanderpaul put the chance down. We were moving along comfortably enough when the rain came down again, which it has done at regular intervals all through this Test. When play commenced again Andy Flower had another piece of good fortune when he edged Ambrose to first slip where Gayle spilled the chance. Batting was extremely difficult, as the ball was reverse-swinging and keeping low. Mixed in with this, Ambrose and Walsh bowling superbly, you couldn't help get the feeling that something was going to happen.

Something did when Gripper, after a mammoth and very important vigil, edged a superb Ambrose leg-cutter to first slip. Enter yours truly and not for very long, edging another reverse-swinging Ambrose delivery to Jacobs second ball. 140 for 5 and you could sense that this is where the game could be turned on its head -- the Windies were pumped up. Carlisle came to the crease and looked very comfortable, playing a breezy innings of 17 before going back to one that kept low from Ambrose. Zimbabwe 160 for 6 and the game was very evenly poised.

Streak joined Flower and while Flower at the one one end was showing all the resolve that had already netted him 6 test hundreds, Streak held up the other end, mixing cautious defence with well-timed punches off the back foot. They accumulated together and before we knew it Flower was on 99 and all the boys were on the edge of their seats. A mis-timed drive off Walsh that looped to mid-off and a scampered single, Flower had reached a hundred. And what a valuable effort it had been, spanning 7 hours in very demanding conditions against two of the finest fast bowlers in the world.

At 232 for 6 we looked like we would get a good lead on the first innings, but things sort of fell apart as Sreak edged off-spinner Gayle to slip, then Murphy was out lbw to Rose. Olonga and Mbangwa followed next over in consecutive balls, leaving us 236 all out. Bad light ended the day's play, with Zimbabwe 49 runs ahead - priceless on a wearing wicket and thanks mainly to a magnificent 100 by Andy Flower.

Day 4 dawned with our knowing that we had to bowl them out relatively cheaply, as chasing anything substantial on the fifth day against their bowling attack would prove very difficult. Our day couldn't have started in a better way, with Steak to the fore again, removing Griffiths lbw for 0 and Gayle bowled next ball, leaving them 0 for 2 after the first over.

A mini-recovery was started by Chanderpaul and Campbell before a magnificent piece of reflex fielding at short leg by Murray Goodwin accounted for Campbell: Run out, he punched the ball firmly to short leg off Murphy but overbalanced slightly and, quick as a flash, Goodwin threw down the stumps - the sort of inspiration we needed.

Adams joined Chanderpaul and they batted very well and in a very disciplined manner, and at 115 for 3 were threatening to give us something very demanding to chase on the last day.

Olonga came back into the attack with the ball reverse-swinging, and got rid of Adams caught at point. Streak removed Chanderpaul lbw the next over and suddenly things were back in our favour. Olonga obliged to put it firmly in our favour removing Jacobs lbw in his next over. From 115 for 3 the Windies had slumped to 119 for 6.

Murphy got rid of Ambrose, caught at silly point by Johnson, and Streak returned to have Rose caught behind. Olonga then ran out their last recognised batsman, Hinds, trying to run two to retain the strike -- a magnificent strong throw from the square-leg boundary. Bad light was offered with Walsh and King the not-out batsmen and the West Indies at 147 for 9, a 98-run lead.

A very good day out again for Heath Streak -- but, in fairness, all the bowlers did their jobs to give us batters the opportunity to chase a moderate total to create a piece of history for Zimbabwe cricket. It is entirely in our hands now and hopefully in my next report I will reveal that history has been made.

Till the next time.