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Zimbabwe square series with thrilling victory

In a thrilling match of constant fluctuation, Zimbabwe finally won through over India by four wickets in the second Test at Harare on Monday

John Ward
In a thrilling match of constant fluctuation, Zimbabwe finally won through over India by four wickets in the second Test at Harare on Monday. Their heroes on the final day were Heath Streak and Andy Blignaut with the ball and then, when the Zimbabwe challenge was faltering, Stuart Carlisle stood firm and saw his team home to their sixth victory in 52 Tests, and their fourth at the Harare Sports Club. Against expectations, Zimbabwe levelled the two-match series with India, who are left still waiting their first overseas series win since 1986.
It turned out that the loss of Rahul Dravid in the final over of the third day, reducing India to 197 for four, was the turning point of the innings - and the match - as in the first half-hour of the morning Zimbabwe ripped open the Indian middle order, seizing four wickets for 10 runs.
Saurav Ganguly's poor run on form continued. He had still not scored when Andy Blignaut made a ball straighten on him and trapped him lbw, playing back instead of forward. The next blow was the loss of Shiv Sunder Das (70), who unwisely shouldered arms to Heath Streak and was also dismissed lbw, television upholding both decisions as good. India, 202 for six, now relied on debutant Hemang Badani and their lower order.
With no further addition, Ajit Agarkar drove loosely at a ball from Streak swinging away, to be caught at the wicket, and next ball Harbhajan Singh slashed at a similar delivery and only just edged it over the slips for four. Harbhajan continued to live dangerously and two balls later he skied a catch just clear of cover, and down at the other end a leading edge off Blignaut was caught at short cover by the diving Dion Ebrahim in an effort that drew comparisons with Jonty Rhodes. India were sensationally reeling at 207 for eight.
Badani and Javagal Srinath dug in for 35 minutes until Streak returned for his second spell after drinks, and immediately had Srinath (3) caught at the wicket. Ashish Nehra (0) hung on manfully for a further 24 minutes before losing his off stump to Blignaut, but during that time Badani (16 not out) was able to add only one scoring shot, a pull for six over square leg. Blignaut finished with five wickets for 74 and Streak four for 46.
India were all out for 234, leaving Zimbabwe 157 to win. Zimbabwe had scored 162 for three to beat Pakistan at Peshawar in 1998/99, but this was their only previous instance of successfully chasing a target against a senior Test team. It was going to be a stern test of confidence and temperament for the Zimbabwean players, most of whom were either untested or found wanting in such situations. The memory of their failure to reach 99 to beat West Indies just over a year ago would have been fresh in their memories, although under more adverse conditions.
Ganguly began with an attacking field. But Guy Whittall (8) and Dion Ebrahim (6) responded positively, leaving Zimbabwe 17 without loss at lunch.
India broke through soon after lunch with the wicket or Whittall (10), caught off bat and pad off Srinath. This inspired the bowler to greater efforts as he worked up a real pace, but Harbhajan took the next wicket, Ebrahim (20), also caught off bat and pad. At 45 for two, the Zimbabwe innings was at the crossroads.
Alistair Campbell and Stuart Carlisle put together a brief partnership before the former, once again failing to put together a score in keeping with his ability, fell lbw to Nehra for 13. Grant Flower came in ahead of Andy, who was nursing a thumb injury, but there were now signs that Zimbabwe were beginning to clam up under the pressure. Harbhajan bowled his 11 overs before tea for just eight runs.
At the interval Zimbabwe were 86 for three, 71 short of victory. Grant Flower (3) fell in the second over afterwards, caught at second slip off Agarkar to put Zimbabwe's backs to the wall at 89 for four. Carlisle gradually began to open up and play his strokes positively, and the tension began to relax as he ran to his fifty. The tension rose again as Streak (8) drove loosely at Agarkar to be caught at the wicket, making the score 119 for five.
Blignaut (16) played a few aggressive strokes, but tried it once too often against Nehra and was bowled, middle stump, at 144 for six. In came the injured Andy Flower, and to him fell the honour of scoring the winning runs, a sweetly-timed cover drive for four. Carlisle finished unbeaten with 62 while Flower was eight not out.
At the prize distribution ceremony, a jubilant Streak dedicated the victory to Trevor Madondo. Shiv Sunder Das was adjudged man of the series and Andy Blignaut was given the man of the match award.