April 20, 2001

Mixed day for Zimbabwe as they move into first innings lead

By the end of the second day at Queens Sports Club, Zimbabwe had moved unconvincingly into the lead against Bangladesh, after enjoying one good session and suffering too poor ones. The good session was the second, when Guy Whittall (119) and Andy Flower (73) shared a fine partnership, but most of the Zimbabwe batsmen were guilty of giving their wickets away too easily. At the close Zimbabwe were 287 for five, a lead of 30.

Guy Whittall
Whittall - fine century
Photo AFP

Again there were not many adult spectators, but the day was enlivened by a group of about 200 township children who brought life and atmosphere to the ground by their cheering and enthusiasm.

Bangladesh added just one run to their overnight score of 256 for nine (to last man Monjurul Islam) before Mohammad Sharif (0) snicked Andy Blignaut to Alistair Campbell at first slip to end the innings. Blignaut therefore became the first Zimbabwean to take five wickets (for 73 runs) on his Test debut, although John Traicos took five for 86 in Zimbabwe's inaugural Test, having previously played in three Tests for South Africa.

Zimbabwe, and Guy Whittall in particular, got off to a flying start with the nervous Bangladeshi bowlers taking their time to find length and direction. Dion Ebrahim, equally small in stature, found it more difficult to adjust on his debut, and scored only two before snicking left-armer Monjurul Islam to the keeper. Then Stuart Carlisle (3) played the same bowler on to his stumps through the gate, reducing Zimbabwe to 27 for two.

Whittall and Alistair Campbell fought back with some fluent driving, in a way that one could not imagine Zimbabwe adopting against more renowned opponents, and there was always the possibility that they might be unprepared for the good delivery when it came. Campbell, not for the first time in his career, made a gift of his wicket when on 19, hooking at Sharif to lob an easy catch off the glove to the keeper; 66 for three.

Andy Flower was soon under way, hitting Hasibul Hossain for four boundaries in an over between extra cover and third man. He was prepared to bide his time against Sharif, the most consistent of the bowlers. He and Guy Whittall continued to build a major partnership during the afternoon session, when Zimbabwe did not lose a wicket.

Andy Flower
Flower good shot selection
Photo AFP

Bangladesh's best chance came with Whittall on 79, when he appeared to be fortunate to have the third umpire rule him not out by the narrowest of margins when he tried to steal a single. Flower, the consummate professional, always looked likely to equal Everton Weekes' Test record of seven consecutive fifties, which came with a trademark back-foot cut backward of point. As usual, this was the most prolific area of the field for him and the Bangladeshis quite failed to restrict him.

Whittall then reached his fourth Test century, although it came with a mistimed pull wide of mid-wicket that just carried for four. It also brought up the 200, in the 48th over. Commendably, but perhaps unrealistically, the Bangladeshis kept relatively attacking fields, with no more than one or two men in the deep.

The tea interval was to prove a good change bowler for Bangladesh as Andy Flower (73), in an uncharacteristic lapse of concentration, lobbed the third ball, from Monjurul, to cover for the easiest of catches. The pair had added 149 together. This slowed the scoring rate seriously as Bangladesh regrouped and pinned the batsmen down. Whittall, probably frustrated, popped a catch almost as easy as Flower's to mid-on off Sharif. He scored 119, the first time he has been dismissed when past 100 in Tests.

Grant Flower looked unrecognisable as the same batsmen who had scored a brilliant 142 on the same ground in the one-day international nine days earlier. Heath Streak played himself in carefully, obviously intent on a major innings, but from being too cavalier in the first session Zimbabwe were now too passive in the third. However, they achieved their objective of seeing out the day, Flower with 30 and Streak 25.