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Flower show in Harare as Andy keeps South Africa at bay

A superb tenth Test century by Andy Flower was the highlight of the third day's play at Harare Sports Club, but despite his efforts Zimbabwe, whose batting closely resembled the legendary curate's egg, were forced to follow on after being dismissed by South Africa for 286. Batting again, they again relied on Flower to rescue them, finishing at 97 for three.

Zimbabwe lost a wicket to the first ball of the morning, as Andre Nel made a ball lift on the unsuspecting night-watchman Raymond Price (0), to lob off the shoulder of his bat into the gully. With the total still on 143, Grant Flower (0) was brilliantly caught by Boeta Dippenaar at short leg off Nel and Zimbabwe, capable of both heights and depths, seemed intent on plumbing the latter.

Guy Whittall at least seemed untroubled, and a large partnership was a real possibility until Jacques Kallis, who had been in danger of losing his cool when attacked by Flower, deceived and yorked Whittall (16) with an excellent slower ball. Zimbabwe were 188 for seven, and it appeared that only an outstanding partnership between Flower and Heath Streak could save the follow-on.

Flower, backing himself as he played his favourite reverse sweep several times against the spin of Claude Henderson, reached 4 000 Test runs when he had scored 92, but lost Heath Streak (7) just before lunch. The Zimbabwe captain padded up to a ball from Henderson outside off stump that did no more than hold its line, and was adjudged lbw by umpire Hair. The replay showed the decision to be in error, but Streak had only himself to blame for not playing a stroke.

Flower duly reached his tenth Test century, and the first by a Zimbabwean against South Africa, in the first over after lunch, playing a rare straight drive to the boundary past bowler Makhaya Ntini. Every one of his three-figure scores has been recorded in adversity.

Travis Friend gained in confidence as South Africa took the second new ball, hitting three fours in an over from Nel, although one was an accidental and amusing deflection to fine leg off the back of the bat as he ducked a bouncer. Is this the birth of the reverse cut? Flower hammered Pollock for three successive off-side boundaries, and it was Nel who finally broke the stand, as Friend (30) edged him to third slip. The pair had added an invaluable 75 for the ninth wicket.

Douglas Hondo defended gallantly until Flower was last out, adjudged lbw to Pollock for 142 by umpire Tiffin despite being hit outside the line of off stump while playing a stroke. He faced 200 balls and hit 14 fours as the Zimbabwe innings came to an end for 286. Nel, on his debut, took four wickets for 53. 314 runs behind, Zimbabwe were required to follow on.

Zimbabwe were soon rocked by the loss without a run on the board of Dion Ebrahim, who failed to learn from his captain the danger of padding up without playing a stroke, although this time umpire Hair's decision in favour of Pollock looked good. Then, on the stroke of tea, Kallis again took a wicket in his first over, bowling Alistair Campbell (7) through the gate via the inside edge. Zimbabwe were once again in trouble at 18 for two.

Craig Wishart (6) was caught at slip off Pollock, a second failure that could well move the selectors to drop him once again, and this brought in Andy Flower for the second time during the day. Once again, at 25 for three, the innings was in crisis, and the positive strokeplay of the first innings was also lacking. Hamilton Masakadza, although looking sound, became becalmed, while Flower, although playing some good strokes, did not look as comfortable as he had first time round.

However, they kept their heads and their wickets intact, and towards the close began to play with more freedom. Masakadza finished the day on 37 and Flower on 43, while Zimbabwe still need another 217 runs to avoid the innings defeat.