Pygmies bludgeon dwarves
Zimbabwe overcome the curse of the crown
Captains came and went like the rain, Andy Flower went and came to rattle up his fifth century in 11 Tests, and Zimbabwe ultimately won a bad-meets-worse contest 1-0. Brian Murphy, who till last year squeezed in legbreaks in between university exams, led for the first time in Test matches but had to return home with a broken bone, and the least wanted job in Zimbabwe passed onto Stuart Carlisle. Meanwhile, Naimur Rahman, who couldn't eke out a single wicket in the series, was sacked and keeper Khaled Masud spiralled up the ranks to captain. Ultimately, two other former captains, Aminul Islam and Akram Khan were also dismissed from the one-day side, lest they felt out of place.
Amid it all, Travis Friend showed he had the makings of a genuine allrounder. In the first Test at Dhaka, not only did he mop up the Banglas by the time they had reached 107 on the opening morning, he also manoeuvred 89 runs from No. 9. The last five added five times more than the top five as Craig Wishart, Douglas Marillier and Heath Streak all upped their batting averages. And with Bangladesh at 125 for 3 at the end of the third day, Murphy must have eyed an innings win; he got two days of rain instead. Bangladesh escaped with a draw and managed in the process to unearth an 18-year old find called Mashrafe Bin Mortaza - brought into the side after he impressed Andy Roberts in the nets - who bowled fast and straight for his four wickets.
In the second Test in Chittagong, Zimbabwe batted first. Trevor Gripper made a studied century at the top, Wishart a blistering one down the order, and Andy Flower pieced one together from either side of a collision with Enamul Haque that forced him to retire hurt for a while, as Zimbabwe ran up 542. In response, Habibul Bashar's stroke-filled 108 went so thoroughly unsupported that a follow-on was embraced rather than enforced. Javed Omar stonewalled admirably, batting more than a day for his 80; but apart from a spunky 40 by Mohammad Al Sahariar Rokon and 76 more by Habibul, there was no resistance. The target of 11 had taken on menacing proportions when Bin Mortaza made it 2 for 0, but Gripper's cold six-ball assault settled the issue. Grant Flower was Man of the Match: he took eight with his slow left-arm stuff as Zimbabwe won their first Test series since...they defeated Bangladesh 2-0 at home in April.
Rahul Bhattacharya is the author of the cricket tour book Pundits from Pakistan and the novel The Sly Company of People Who Care