Zimbabwe had a lot of hard work to do as they resumed on 31 for three after dismissing India for 237. This they did with a lot of credit, thanks mainly to a gutsy innings of 80 not out from Grant Flower, who lifted his team from a shaky 110 for five to a lead of 64 runs at the close with two wickets still in hand. At stumps on the second day of the second Test match at the Harare Sports Club ground on Saturday, Zimbabwe were 301 for eight.
In the morning, Dion Ebrahim began with confidence, playing some particularly impressive drives, although he played and missed dangerously at times. Andy Flower though only occasionally showed his best form and was perhaps fortunate to survive an lbw appeal by Ajit Agarkar when on 18. Despite that, he passed 1000 runs in Test cricket against India alone.
The primary aim was clearly to occupy the crease during the first session. India stuck to their pace trio for more than 90 minutes, with Agarkar perhaps the best, restraining Flower and enjoying no luck. They kept an attacking field and, with the slow outfield, threes were more frequent than boundaries.
When Harbhajan Singh belatedly came on, Flower immediately came to life. He reverse-swept him for four, and then swept and glanced a further ten runs off the next three balls. But his eagerness to seize the initiative proved his undoing, as off the final ball of the over he pushed a catch to forward short leg and was dismissed for 45. It was another good catch by Shiv Sunder Das. This was only the second time India had ever dismissed him for less than 50 in a Test; on the previous occasion he made 30.
Ebrahim sadly fell on 49, trying to hit across a quicker ball from Harbhajan and being trapped lbw. At lunch Zimbabwe were back in trouble at 113 for five, and Harbhajan had the interesting figures of 3-1-16-2.
Grant Flower and Heath Streak dug in with determination after lunch, but both were free enough to play the odd powerful stroke, and were not afraid to attack Harbhajan. With India maintaining an attacking field with four close catchers, it was enthralling cricket.
Streak, on 11, became the first Zimbabwean to achieve the Test double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets. They batted until half an hour before tea until Steak (40) suffered an unlucky dismissal similar to that of Sachin Tendulkar the previous day - when Steak was the bowler. The roles were reversed now, as Streak misread Tendulkar's googly and paid the penalty for padding up, the ball ricocheting from his pad on to the stumps. Zimbabwe were now 175 for six.
Grant Flower, hitherto quiescent, now opened up with the aggressive Andy Blignaut as his partner, and a flurry of runs ensued. Just after tea, Flower celebrated his 50th Test match with a fifty, the first of the innings after three forties. India were frustrated by the umpire's rejection of an appeal for a catch at the wicket against Blignaut off Harbhajan when he was on 29, and television replays seemed to indicate they were unlucky. Blignaut celebrated with a remarkable six over extra cover, taking Zimbabwe into the lead, but then moved down the pitch to be stumped for 35.
Travis Friend, in his maiden Test innings, scored a valuable 15 before being bowled by Ashish Nehra, while Brian Murphy (17 not out) also dug in to give Flower invaluable support. India spared no effort, but found the Zimbabwean tail much harder to shift with the second new ball than the top order had been with the first. They fielded superbly and bowled well, with Javagal Srinath the only bowler who seemed below form.