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November 19, 2000

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Zimbabwe top 400 as tail wags

Ashish Magotra

India realised on Sunday just why it needs a bowler who can wipe out the rival's tail in a hurry if it has to become one of the top Test-playing teams. Thus,while Zimbabwe piled on the agony, the Indians could do little but watch.

The second day of the first Test between Zimbabwe and India began with skipper Saurav Ganguly taking the new ball first thing in the morning. The move had its result immediately with Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak falling to an incoming delivery from Javagal Srinath.

The ball went off his bat on to his pad before finding its way to Rahul Dravid who was fielding in close.There was no addition to the overnight total of 232.

With Streak back in the pavilion, Paul Strang walked out to join Andy Flower in the centre. At this stage, India should have dismissed the Zimbabwean tail. But Strang, who had shown early in his career that he was no slouch with the bat, played sensibly ang gave Flower all the support he needed.

The Zimbabwean leggie played the bowling on merit until he top-edged a delivery from Sunil Joshi straight to Ganguly, who gleefully accepted the catch.

The other legspinner in the team, Brian Murphy, was next. He continued in Strang's vein, giving good support to Flower, and the two took Zimbabawe safely to lunch at 299 for seven.

Shortly after lunch, Flower reached his well-deserved century. The former Zimbabwe captain does seem to taken a liking to the Ferozeshah Kotla Grounds, scoring a century (115 in 1991-92) the last time he played in a Test match here as well.

Flower reached his century off 201 deliveries smashing 12 fours and two sixes. Murphy was run out soon after by Rahul Dravid and was replaced by Paul Strang's brother Brian. But he did not last long, scoring just six runs before falling to Ajit Agarkar.

And finally it seemed as if India would wrap up the Zimbabwe innings. But that was not to be. Last man Henry Olonga had different ideas and hung around, frustrating the Indian attack and making it feel the absence of a strike bowler like Zaheer Khan who can use his yorkers to good effect against the tailenders.

At the other end, Flower continued to pile on the runs. By and by Zimbabwe's score topped 350 and Flower passed his highest Test score of 156. Finally, with the total on 422/9 and Flower unbeaten on 183, Streak ended the Indians' agony and declared the innings closed.

Zimbabwe are now in a commanding position in the Test and will look to their bowlers to capitalise on their advantage. The Indian openers, Sadagoppan Ramesh and Shiv Sunder Das, negotiated the last seven overs of the day safely, ending on 9 without loss and needing 413 more runs to overhaul the Zimbabwean first innings total.

Monday, therefore, will be a very important day that will probably decide the course of this Test match.

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