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Gary Brent on Zimbabwe v England, Second One-Day International

Despite another feeble batting performance, Zimbabwe fought back with great determination in the second one-day international against England at Queens Sports Club, and were beaten by only one wicket, thanks to a fortuitous edge by Alan Mullally off

John Ward
Despite another feeble batting performance, Zimbabwe fought back with great determination in the second one-day international against England at Queens Sports Club, and were beaten by only one wicket, thanks to a fortuitous edge by Alan Mullally off Gary Brent. Gary had another encouraging match for Zimbabwe, playing a valuable innings, taking vital wickets and being entrusted with bowling at the death. He talks to John Ward about that match.
JW: First of all, Gary, how did your game develop during the triangular tournament in South Africa?
GB: I think it developed quite a bit. I'd never been in a winning side for Zimbabwe before, until the game in Durban [against South Africa], and for me just to win a game and be there at the end as well has given me a lot of confidence. I'm a much more confident player now than I think I used to be. My batting is still coming on, but I'm very confident in my bowling and my slower ball seems to be coming out nicely as well. It's nice that people like Lance Klusener are still not smashing my slower ball out of the park, which is very encouraging! That obviously gives me a lot of confidence when bowling against the best in the world. I had some good returns, which was nice. Mainly mentally, the tour has made me a lot stronger, I think.
JW: Which is your most enjoyable personal memory?
GB: Definitely the win in Durban when I was there on the final ball with one run to win, and we did it off a leg-bye, I think it was, to Boucher. For me, that will stick in my mind for a long time. Heath [Streak] and I walked up to each other and said, "Whatever happens we're running," so I was halfway down the wicket anyway. It worked out, thank goodness, and Boucher missed the stumps. On the television replay afterwards it said I was in anyway, so thank goodness for that! I think he did fumble it or it bounced before him, so it was quite fortuitous anyway.
JW: Now can you describe the match yesterday, please? [The second one-day international against England.]
GB: We knew there was a bit of juice in the pitch and we would have bowled first but England won the toss. Even batting, we thought there would still be a bit in the pitch at the end, in the second innings, so we weren't really distressed that we lost the toss. We had a good start, and things were going really well when Johnno [Neil Johnson] got out and the middle order had a bit of a collapse, and suddenly I found myself batting with 12 overs to go. For me it was great, for whenever I've gone in in the past I've either had to get a run a ball or start smashing, so here at least I could have a look and enjoy a bit of international batting, which I haven't been able to do in a one-day game before. I really enjoyed it! I got hit on the gloves, I got hit on the body by old Caddick, as he was pretty difficult to face with that incredible bounce, but I really enjoyed it. I got out in the last over trying to hoick Ealham - I should have played straight, but I thought it was time to get on with it, and that's what I tried to do.
JW: To start with, were you basically aiming just to see it out until the last couple of overs?
GB: Yes - Davy [Houghton, the coach] came to me before I went out to bat and he said, "Listen, we've got 12 overs left and you've got to be there at the end." So I thought I'd go for that, and as I walked out John Rennie said, "Let's just enjoy this," and it was great - I really enjoyed my batting. I only made 10, but it's given me so much confidence, once you play against Caddick, Goughie and all those guys - they're such good bowlers. I faced them and they didn't get me out; I only got myself out, so I was really happy with that.
JW: Any particular shots stick in the memory?
GB: Yes - my double-step down the wicket to Alan Mullally to hit him down the ground for four. I really enjoyed that! I'd love to see it on replay, but I haven't seen it yet! Facing Caddick was such a huge experience. I was going forward to balls I normally go forward to and getting hit on the glove every single time. It was a lovely competition and I really enjoyed the battle. I didn't score a run off him but I really enjoyed it!
JW: What was the talk between innings?
GB: We said to ourselves, "We've got a defendable score, but not as easy-win score. It's something on the board and they've still got to get it. There's still something in the wicket so let's go and try our best out there. We went out and did really well. In the beginning we got three early wickets, the big three for us, which is Knight, Hussain and Hick. We got them out fairly cheaply and we thought we were still in there. Then White had a good game again; Ealham is very under-rated, I think, and he's a good player. He came to the fore and he did well, and then we started getting them out and it suddenly turned interesting.
JW: What was the situation when you came on to bowl?
GB: When I first came on, Maddy was still batting with Solanki. I thought I was pretty unlucky because he hit one that went through John Rennie for four, and I went for five off my first over, but I could easily have gone for one. Then Maddy top-edged me over his head for four, and there were a couple of big shots; I think they'd had a team talk and obviously wanted to take me on for some reason. I think I enjoyed it, and we had a bit of a set-to, Darren Maddy and myself, a bit of a talk in the middle. That was great, and then he holed out to Henry [Olonga] - even better!
The second time I can on it was just a do-or-die scene. Henry had just taken a wicket - I think he had just finished his last over and they needed 12 to win. I bowled a ball to Chris Read and he played and missed it, so I thought I'd put a bit more into the next ball. It ended up a long hop and he miscued it straight to Wish [Craig Wishart], and I thought, "Thank goodness - I don't mind getting wickets if that's how they come!"
Then two balls later my slower ball got Ealham, and I was very happy about that. I bowled the ball right up to him because he hits the ball really well and he plays the short ball well, so I just put it right up to him. He does like to attack, so I hoped with the change of pace he might block it or chip it to someone, but he just missed it and was straight in front of the poles. I think this time he was trying to stay there and was too defensive, and that was his downfall. Normally he would go after it and really try to attack that sort of ball.
JW: I just wondered if he lost it altogether, the way he played it.
GB: Hopefully! That would say something about my slower ball, but I don't think he did; I think he was just trying to build an innings there, because there were quite a few wickets falling around him and he was just trying to stay there, and he went too defensive and missed it.
JW: And in the last couple of overs you had to bowl at the death.
GB: Well, that was frightening for me. I've been in a batting situation where we needed so many runs off so many balls, and that was such an adrenaline thing, but this was the first time I'd been bowling right at the end where we can win and we had one wicket to get. Then I bowled a short ball, wide on the leg side, to Darren Gough, a terrible ball, and it went for four, then I bowled a wide as well. I think nerves got the better of me there, because at the end of my mark my legs were shaking; that's the first time it happened to me, so hopefully I'll learn from that and next time I'll be a bit stronger.
JW: There were five beautiful balls in that over that he couldn't do anything with.
GB: Well, yes, but it was that sixth one . . . you have to bowl six in the right place, and I didn't.
JW: And the last over to Mullally?
GB: In the past he's been very susceptible to slower balls. When England were here last, the guys just came up and bowled a normal ball to him and then a slower ball, and he'd be out. So we took that sort of tactic and I decided to steam in, give him a normal length ball so he could guess the sort of pace, and then bowl him a slowie. He batted those out, so I decided to bowl him a good-length ball, and he got a nick on it and it went through the slips for four. There was nothing I could do about that. It wasn't a bad ball, but just unlucky - one of those things.
JW: The guys must have felt pretty flat after all that.
GB: Very, very flat, but after everything we sat down and said, "Well, listen, guys, we were actually nowhere; they needed 15 runs with five wickets in hand and so many overs in the bank, so from nothing we could have won." That gave us great heart as a team to see those guys were fairly susceptible to pressure, and hopefully in the next two games we'll apply some of that - hopefully put some better scores on the board, maybe bat second, and we'll see how it goes.
At the moment I'm really enjoying my cricket; playing against the best in the world is phenomenal, and it's a dream come true for me.
JW: Is there any particular area of your game that you're working on at the moment?
GB: My batting, I think. My batting is terrible at the moment. I've got to get that up; I'm meant to be an all-rounder and that's what I'm working towards. Hopefully Carl Rackemann is going to come down again, and I'll get a couple of pointers again from him to sharpen up my bowling. I think I've got to get maybe a little bit quicker. I'm going to do a lot of gym work during the winter and try to get a bit stronger and a bit quicker. And I've got a lot of work to do on my batting. I've still a long way to go, unfortunately!
I know Carl is going to be on the tour to the West Indies, but I don't know if I'll get on that tour. Hopefully even just before then he could have a look at me if I'm not going. He did remodel my whole action - it doesn't look like it! - he remodelled everything: longer run-up, longer strides, and hopefully he'll have a look again at that and fine-tune a couple of things. It should be great for the bowlers in the West Indies - he's been a revelation to the bowlers, he really has.