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Grant Flower ruled out of Australia tour

Grant Flower, who broke his thumb during a Logan Cup match last weekend, has been ruled out of Zimbabwe's forthcoming tour to Australia. This means that, for the first time in 15 years, the name `Flower' will not be on a full Zimbabwe team scoresheet.

Flower, 32, was fielding in the slips for champions Mashonaland against Manicaland at Mutare Sports Club last week, when he was hit on the right thumb while attempting a tough catch. "It was very fast and low, and the ball swung at the last moment, causing me to misjudge it," said Flower, who left the field immediately in considerable pain.

Speaking from Harare, Flower said he had just undergone an operation to insert a wire into the thumb, which would be in plaster for six weeks. He is hoping to be fit to play again when West Indies arrive in Zimbabwe at the beginning of November, but it will be a race against time.

Flower is Zimbabwe's most experienced player, with 65 Tests and 209 one-day internationals behind him, and on the recent tour to England he was the only member of the side to have scored a Test century.

He has never quite regained the brilliant form and confidence he showed about six years ago, when he looked on the verge of becoming a truly world-class player, but he remains totally committed to Zimbabwe cricket, and to lose him for Zimbabwe's first Test-playing tour of Australia is a serious blow to a team that will, in any case, be looking down the barrel.

The team to tour Australia is due to be announced on Wednesday morning. It is unlikely that Zimbabwe will travel to Australia without any Test centurion in their ranks, as Craig Wishart and Trevor Gripper, who were controversially omitted from the England tour, have both shown superb early-season form. Although both men scored their Test centuries against the inexperienced Bangladeshis, the omission of either would be even more controversial now.