March 26, 2000

Tour diary: Not part of the plan

As I stated in my last report, we needed to let what happened in Trinidad go, and focus all our attention and energies on to the next Test match. We had our team meeting and made peace with the first Test and refocused!

The pitch here in Jamaica is renowned for being a good batting wicket, and so it looked -- not a blade of grass to be seen and the surface was rock hard. We were in no doubt that if we won the toss we would bat, which Andy Flower duly did. There was a little moisture in the wicket -- left there to stop the pitch from cracking up too early in the match so initially the going was very tough as Ambrose and Walsh got the ball to seam and bounce. Grant Flower weathered the initial storm, but then edged Walsh to Jacobs and we were one down.

Gripper and Goodwin then played very sensibly and we were moving along very nicely at 40 for 1 a few minutes before lunch, when we lost two wickets and suddenly we were in some trouble. Gripper mistimed an attempted pull shot off King to Walsh at mid-wicket, and Johnson edged the same bowler to first slip. Suddenly we were 40 for 3, and we needed to do some seriously hard work.

What proceeded hereafter was a classic example of superlative Test match batting on a good wicket against good bowling. Flower and Goodwin began the rebuilding exercise with a mixture of watchful defence and punches and pushes into the gaps. Goodwin was the more expansive of the two and played some exquisite cuts and clips off his legs. The mental discipline needed to bat this way and for this period is immense, and we moved from 40 for 3 to 216 for 3 just before the close when a mini-disaster struck.

The second new ball was taken and Goodwin, who had just posted a magnificent hundred playing under lots of pressure, was involved in a mix-up with Andy Flower and was run out for 113. A bit of a blow to the team, but mainly for Goodwin who was batting superbly and looked like he was on course for a big hundred. If that wasn't enough, next ball Flower was bowled by Franklin Rose for 66.

Light was offered soon afterwards and yours truly accepted it with great glee, as the West Indian paceman had by this stage worked up a fair head of steam. What looked to be a day that would firmly belong to us turned out fairly even, with Zimbabwe finishing on 220 for 5. But the day really belonged to Murray Goodwin, who posted his second Test hundred -- and what a good one it was.

Day 2 dawned with us having to bat for as long as we could and get a good first innings lead on the board. The pitch has a bit of early moisture in it and the ball was swinging. Yours truly departed very quickly LBW and his room-mate Murphy perished soon afterwards, bowled. This was certainly not part of our very structured plan that had been discussed the night before. Streak perished as well, bowled by King, and when Strang perished caught behind after bludgeoning a few boundaries our innings was not looking good at 254 for 9.

Olonga joined Carlisle and they proceeded to play very sensibly, defending when required and putting way the bad ball. They contrived to put on 54 for the 10th wicket, which could prove invaluable as the game progressed. Our innings ended at 308, but there was some bad news awaiting the dressing room. Heath Streak had done something to his back and would not be able to bowl. It was a big blow to us, but we got together and decided that we would pull together and make sure that we would still do the business even without our top bowler. What spurred us even more, and particularly the bowlers, was that one of the papers had described our attack as very ordinary apart from Streak. On a good batting wicket we had some hard work ahead of us and a point to prove.

What transpired was magnificent. The bowling was superb, very disciplined and very testing. Johnson in particular bowled a superb 10-over spell yielding one wicket. Strang and Olonga bowled very good lines and were rewarded with one a piece, and Murphy, after struggling initially, found his length and was rewarded with the important wicket of Campbell. At close of play the West Indies were 106 for 4 after 58 overs, a very good position for us.

Many pundits would agree with my sentiment that we have won 6 of the 7 days of the cricket played thus far. Hopefully this time we can convert a good position into a winning one.