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Flower's long vigil continues to frustrate South Africa

Andy Flower, a giant among pygmies, again played the role of Horatius on the bridge, frustrating the might of South Africa as they attempted to wrap up the First Test match against Zimbabwe in four days. Flower set several records during the day and he was still there with 138 at the close, having so far batted for 12-and-a-half hours in the match. His team finished 10 runs from making South Africa bat again, with three wickets in hand.

As play began, a few quiet singles from Flower, 43 overnight, took him to his fifty; this was the fifth time in his career he has scored a century and a fifty in the same Test match, and the fourth time in two years. It was his 11th fifty in his last 14 Test innings, and he has now played 15 successive innings without being dismissed by a bowler for less than 40.

An on-drive from his overnight partner, Hamilton Masakadza, off Claude Henderson for four brought him his fifty and also Zimbabwe's first century partnership in four Tests against South Africa. Flower's next landmark was 200 runs in the match, for the fourth time in his career, all during the last two years.

Masakadza enjoyed a life on 56 when he cut Makhaya Ntini hard into the gully, and Shaun Pollock was unable to hold a sharp chance. Overall the South African fielding in this match was a little short of their usual standard of near perfection, with Zimbabwe also benefiting in both innings from several misfields. Another difficult but possible chance came on 70, when the same batsman edged a cut from Lance Klusener low past first slip Jacques Kallis, who was unable to get a hand to it.

Masakadza enjoyed another life on 79, immediately after lunch, missed off another hard chance in the gully. Then Henderson settled into a tight leg-stump line that tied him down, and finally got his man, caught at short leg off pad and bat for 85. It was a good decision by umpire Tiffin despite a comparatively muted appeal, after both umpires during the morning had correctly, according to replays, given several close decisions in favour of the batsmen. The pair had added 186 for the third wicket.

A reverse sweep for four off Henderson in the last over before the second new ball brought Flower his second century of the match, the second Zimbabwean to do so after his brother Grant, and the first wicket-keeper to do so in Test cricket. Nobody else has performed the feat against the strong South African attack since readmission; in fact, not since Australian Jack Moroney in 1949/50.

When South Africa took the second new ball, Andy retreated into watchfulness. Grant, still battling with mental and technical problems, scored 16 before driving Ntini straight to cover just before tea, when Andy was on 115 and Zimbabwe still needed 65 more to avoid the innings defeat.

On either side of tea the cricket developed into a war of attrition as South Africa, unable to dismiss Flower, bowled a defensive line outside off stump to restrain him. Flower occasionally broke through the field but Guy Whittall (3) never looked happy before being adjudged lbw to Henderson.

Heath Streak (19) was brilliantly caught by Kallis at second slip off Pollock, while Flower hung on, though visibly tiring after almost two full days keeping wicket followed by an even longer period at the crease. Travis Friend, though, looked like repeating his impressive defiance of the first innings and was unbeaten with 10 at the close.