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November 29, 2000

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Andy is dandy, as Zimbabwe draws Test

Prem Panicker

Put a cape on this guy, and you've got Superman! Following on from his heroics of the first Test, Andy Flower kept wickets throughout five full sessions and a bit of the sixth while India piled on 609 runs. And then came back out and, over two innings, piled up 287 runs in a display of endurance, determination and concentration it is impossible to over-praise.

Morning Session

The morning session of play began with both teams presenting a study in contrast -- Zimbabwe, represented by overnight not outs Andy Flower and Alistair Campbell, looked very positive in their play while the Indian bowlers, needing quick wickets to get back into the game, looked strangely flat, almost as though the resistance provided by the fourth wicket partnership had taken the fizz out of them.

Given that, Flower first, then Campbell, raced to their individual centuries in the first hour of play. Andy Flower is easily Zimbabwe's best batsman, and his enormous ability and confidence showed in his style of play -- a no-nonsense, calm, controlled innings that, barring the one blemish yesterday when he was reprieved by Ganguly at slip, was flawless and commanding.

Alistair Campbell, easily the more naturally talented of the two, was battling himself as much as the bowlers. A tendency towards extravagant strokeplay had meant that for all his talent, he was yet to weigh in with a Test ton. Campbell filled that hole in his CV this morning, getting through the nineties with three sparkling boundaries in an over to bring up his maiden Test hundred.

Just when the partnership threatened to take the game away from the Indians, Zahir Khan took out Campbell with a well directed bouncer. The batsman shaped to hook, the inward movement of the ball ensured that the batsman wasn't able to control the shot, and Joshi at square leg had an easy take -- Campbell gone for 102 (off 186 balls), after figuring in a superb partnership of 209 runs for the fourth wicket with Andy Flower.

Grant Flower, the centurion of the first innings, came out needing to keep the good work going. In this knock, however, he seemed a man in a hurry, playing too many shots too early, and being very lucky to see two of his strokes fall just out of reach of fielders. Joshi, who this morning seemed to have found a measure of his old form, took him out with a very well flighted delivery that turned and bounced to take the edge through to Ganguly at slip, Grant Flower falling for 16 off 25 balls, ending a partnership of 22 runs for the 5th wicket.

Dirk Viljoen had his problems against the turn of both Joshi and Sarnadeep, but survived the rest of the session while Andy Flower continued to impose his will on the Indian bowlers. The batting side went in to lunch on 335/5, leading on the second innings by 108. Andy Flower was unbeaten on 134, but most importantly, the 43 run sixth wicket partnership had consumed 16 overs.

It is overs that will determine the final outcome. At lunch Zimbabwe, leading by 108, had used up 31 of the allotted 90 overs for today. That leaves 59 overs for the last two sessions, and all Zimbabwe have to do, really, is use up another 30, 35 overs, thus ensuring that India won't have enough left to make a push for the target.

Post lunch Session

The focus of the second session was the gritty resistance offered by Dirk Viljoen. Thumped on the helmet twice by well-directed Zahir Khan bouncers, beaten any number of times by both pace and spin, Viljoen still held his nerve and fought to keep his wicket intact, playing a vital role in ensuring that Zimbabwe continued to grind out time. Andy Flower, for his part, just went on and on, in indomitable fashion, the precision of his sweeping and reverse-sweeping being the standout feature in a session that saw the keeper-batsman surpass his highest Test score when he got to 184 -- which eclipsed the 183 not out he scored against India at the Kotla a few days ago.

For a while, during this session, the Indians bizarrely set a run-saving field before waking up to the fact that they needed wickets in a hurry to make something of this game, and bringing the close-in cordon back to war stations.

Sarandeep Singh finally struck, taking his fourth wicket of the innings when he drew Viljoen forward and found the edge with one turning away, Ganguly at slip reacting well to take the low catch. The left-hander had, meanwhile, used up 124 valuable deliveries in scoring his 34, and played his part in a 113 run partnership (41 overs) that took Zimbabwe further down the road to safety.

The wicket fell with the score on 405. Almost immediately thereafter, an umpiring error gave Zimbabwe a further lease of life as Heath Streak, attempting to paddle Sunil Joshi's top spinner, got the thick inner edge onto his pad. Ramesh, at silly point, held the looping chance with ease, but for some reason, umpire A V Jayaprakash turned the appeal down.

At tea, Zimbabwe had made 425/6. 90 runs had been scored in the session, off 30 overs, for the loss of Viljoen's wicket. Andy Flower remained unconquered, going in on 189. The real statistic of interest though was that at the break, India has a mere 29 overs (two less if you factor in the change of innings) left to knock back the remaining wickets and still push for a win -- with Zimbabwe already ahead by 198, and with four wickets still standing, that now looks a very remote possibility indeed.

Post-tea session

The last two hours of this Test is best summed up in two words -- no contest. India came out looking reconciled to a draw, and spent the time going through the formalities. There was a brief spell of aggressive bowling, which lasted some 15 minutes or so after tea, but once Andy Flower and Heath Streak saw Zimbabwe through this period, the Indians wilted and just gave up.

The session saw Andy Flower cap a masterpiece of endurance and concentration by bringing up the first double century of his career, single-handedly steering his side to safety. The Zimbabwe keeper-batsman has 540 runs in four innings, with just two dismissals -- which makes you wonder just what he would have done had this been a three or four Test series. For his efforts, Andy Flower won Man of the Match, and Man of the Series -- accolades richly deserved by a batsman now at the very peak of his form.

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