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The Player's View: Stuart Carlisle on the Third One-Day International

Despite his brilliant century against Sri Lanka, Stuart Carlisle has again had his critics, especially when he scored few runs batting well down the order in South Africa

John Ward
Despite his brilliant century against Sri Lanka, Stuart Carlisle has again had his critics, especially when he scored few runs batting well down the order in South Africa. However, once he was restored to his spot near the top of the batting order, he got among the runs again, making the top Zimbabwean score in both the second and the third one-day internationals against England. Here he talks to John Ward about his recent career and about the third one-day international, played at Harare Sports Club on Sunday 19 February.
JW: Stuey, let's start off with the triangular tournament in South Africa. I see that once again you were batting low down in the middle order there, and once again you weren't able to do justice to yourself down there.
SC: Yes, that's right - I was batting at six or seven. I prefer obviously to bat higher up the order. It was very hard down south because we never really got a good start and when I went in there were always four wickets down for around 80 or 100, so we needed some good early partnerships. That's one thing we needed to do because I started batting a bit negatively because we were four down, and trying to rebuild it took longer than usual. Normally I should be able to go in with the score 150 or possibly 170 for four, and we never really had one game - when I went in, anyway, at number seven - when I could play my shots. I had to rebuild the innings when I went in.
I had a nice game in the first match, and then I had a bit of a problem with the lbw's - quite a few of us did, but it got better as the tour went on. But our batting in general I think wasn't that great down south, for anyone in particular. Neil [Johnson] obviously batted quite well, Andy [Flower] had some good innings, but otherwise nobody really got going.
JW: I suppose your best memory might be one or two of the catches you took!
SC: Yes, I think so - the one at Durban especially! I believe it was in the competition rated as one of the best catches, and I was quite happy about that. Heath Streak bowled a short ball and Neil McKenzie hooked it. He actually toe'd the ball; it did come quite quickly, but I was expecting it to come a bit quicker. I had to delay myself as I fell to my left, took a little step, so I ended up catching it behind me with one hand as opposed to two. It was a bit of a reflex catch. I took one or two other catches on that tour, including a very high catch at Cape Town that seemed to stick; I think it might have been Chris Read who hit that, trying to go over the boundary, and I caught him at cow corner.
But I think in general my fielding has been pretty good until now, so I'm quite happy with that department at the moment. In fact the general fielding of the team was pretty good down south, and the bowling was excellent, so it was just the batting we've got to sort out, and unfortunately on Sunday it was the other way round - in fact, basically all the departments failed.
JW: Do you know what finally prompted them to put you up in the order again?
SC: I think I was going to bat number three in the last game against England, down in South Africa, at Centurion Park. I don't know what their theories are - I think they just feel that because I've been taking a little longer at number six or seven, taking more balls than usual, they thought maybe I should go in earlier and stabilise the innings at one end. I enjoy it better, but when I say there's less pressure, it's much harder I think batting at number six or seven; when you come in there's a lot more pressure even if you are going well at 150 or 200 for four, even if the fielders are out, you still have to get it going. Whereas at number three the pressures are that I have to get used to the swinging ball again, although the white ball does get old quite quickly. But you can take longer, and once you're in the 20th or 25th over, if you're on 20 or 30, you can really get going, which is another thing because you have 20-odd overs in which to build a really big score. Obviously at seven you can probably only get forties or fifties at maximum. So at least I can aim to get bigger scores if I carry on batting there.
JW: Can you talk your way through Sunday's match now, starting off with the toss?
SC: Well, we won the toss, which was great, but it was really sad that for the first time since South Africa the bowlers didn't bowl well at all. They bowled both sides of the wickets, they bowled short and wide, and Hicky especially got off to a flier. His first 20 or 30 runs came pretty quickly because he was given a couple of boundaries - although he batted really well, he's a class batsman. You can't afford early on to give runs to a guy like that, because once he's in, he's in for a while. So it was sad to see our bowling was pretty poor throughout.
We brought it back in the middle, actually, quite a bit, so they could have posted a bigger score, but luckily they only got to 248. The fielding wasn't too bad in patches; I think we took our catches most of the time. Then it was our batting, that just fell apart again, the guys at the top: Alistair [Campbell] not getting runs again, throwing his wicket away again . . . But give all credit to them, they bowled very well up front; I think Caddick and Gough bowled a fantastic line. I know when I came in I also struggled a bit just outside off, because I was back to my back-foot theory and I'm probably looking at changing that. As long as you can see those first few overs out, with Gough and Caddick, then you can really get stuck in and build a partnership, and I started doing it with Murray [Goodwin].
We got a fifty or sixty partnership going, but as we were about to take Graeme Hick on - I hit a couple of boundaries the over before - Murray Goodwin got out while hitting a really sweet shot over extra cover, caught on the boundary, so we were back down again. Then Andrew Flower came in and in his first over he really struggled, played and missed five or six balls. So the pressure built up again, and then we had the run-out, and by that stage everything slowed. I think Murray and I really needed to get another 50 runs together, to take us to 120 or 130 for two, and then we would have had at least 15 overs to get 120 runs with eight wickets in hand. That was our objective, and unfortunately Murray got out at just the wrong time. Then, as I say, we had that run-out, and it almost killed things.
JW: How did it happen? - it didn't look like your fault.
SC: Andy Flower called the run - I don't think he was paying me back for last time, because I think I ran him out in South Africa! He just misjudged it, I suppose; he hit it just to the side of Nick Knight, who picked it up and threw direct, and I was out. But these things happen, and that's one of the things we've got to work on again. We keep getting run-outs, so that's another problem with our side.
But there have been lots of positive things, I think, from South Africa, and as soon as we get our batting going, I'm sure our bowling will come back as well.
JW: After you were run out, that really seemed to be the beginning of the end for our batting - there wasn't much fight after that.
SC: Yes, I know. The commentators were saying that maybe I was going a bit slowly, but in my theory should I rather go for a big hit early on and throw my wicket away, or rather got for a chance at the end. And someone has to bat through, and if no one bats through then there's a big problem. So I got, I think, 41 off 79 balls, so we were all batting about the same pace, and I don't know really what they were on about. I was trying to bat through, and Andy did say to me just before Murray got out, and I agreed, that I should take on Graeme Hick, and I thought that was the time to do it, to get maybe two or three big overs. But then Murray got out and we were back to square one.
JW: What was the theory behind bowling first? - was it partly because we batted first and did badly in the first two games?
SC: Well, I don't know if that was the theory because Harare Sports Club is more conducive to seam and it's more of a seamer's wicket as long as you use the pitch. I don't think Heath bowled very well at all - he didn't use the pitch much . . .
JW: Nobody seemed to be doing very much with the ball early on.
SC: Yes, that's right. But if you look at their bowlers you'll see how they really used it, they really dug into the pitch and used the facilities very well - and that's where we lost out. So I think it was right to field first, but it was very grassy the day before and they did take quite a lot off, but we still thought that if anything it was going to move around in the morning.
JW: It's also so difficult to judge at this time of year, when it can start off bright and sunny as it did on Sunday and if you put them in it can easily cloud over later and you have problems with the ball swinging around.
SC: We have batted first before and we've done well, like in that Sri Lanka game where we got 260, so it's no excuse really. But as one-day pitches go, obviously as a batsman I'd prefer to play on the Queens pitch, but I think this pitch here is a lot better, because certainly I for one didn't think it used to be a very good one-day pitch. It used to be made a bit too bouncy, seam around a bit, and we got 210 or 220 scores.
Now we've just got to look forward to tomorrow's game; I'm not sure I'll be batting three - I may be batting four or five, I'm not sure.
JW: Any particular reason for that? - you were our top scorer twice at three!
SC: Well, someone just said at the start I might be batting in the middle order, but we'll see what happens tomorrow - it might just be a rumour. Maybe they think with a newer ball, with Gough and Caddick, they may want me to come in a little later, so I can maybe get in the middle and really hit the ball.
JW: What would be your feeling if they kept it flexible and said, "If a wicket falls in the first ten overs we'll send somebody else in, but if it falls later than that you will be going in at three"?
SC: I wouldn't like that; I'd rather just go in at three. I'm enjoying three, so I hope I go in at three tomorrow - but as long as I don't get put back at six or seven again! Then it would be quite irritating, because there are some players at the top who I think really need to get in and make some big scores. There are a lot of guys like Craig Wishart or Gavin Rennie or Trevor Gripper who need a chance at the top, and it's about time they stopped looking at us as fringe players and looked at us as top-order batsmen.
JW: And those who've had their chances to make big scores up there and don't should try a spell in the middle order, I think.
SC: That's right - and instead of throwing us around all the time maybe it would be better for the team rather try as at number three or number four. And then the experienced guys, see how they handle the pressure at number six or seven.