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Runs flowing from Flower's bat once more

By Mark Nicholas

19 December 1996

IN ENGLAND the Flowers brothers make ale. In Zimbabwe the Flower brothers make runs. Simple as that. Sometimes it is Grant, the younger, whose resolve drives a bowler to drink, or to dross; mostly it is Andy, the elder, who grits his teeth, juts his jaw and pitches his camp behind enemy lines.

Talk of Zimbabwe and the team of hunters and farmers niggles at Andy who is nothing of the sort. He is a professional cricketer in the absolute sense of the word. Whether in Bulawayo or Birmingham, Harare or The Hague, Flower the elder is a batsman and wicketkeeper with a living to earn, an unsung country to promote.

When Zimbabwe played their first game as fully- fledged internationals in the World Cup of 1992, against Sri Lanka, Flower made a hundred. When Zimbabwe for the first time won a Test match, against Pakistan in February 1995, Flower made 156. In this, his country's first Test against England, Flower batted for 331 balls and made 112. This is a man of formidable resolve, a point well proven by his Test average of 42.

Before yesterday Flower had had a rotten year, which reached its lowest point during Zimbabwe's disheartening performances in the World Cup. They had travelled full of hope, a team of scrappers who would nibble at the ankles of the great and the good and catch them off guard if they were off song. But crushing losses to Sri Lanka, the West Indies and Australia squashed their enthusiasm and cost them their spirit.

Never can a Zimbabwe team have been less likely to cause an upset, never can a Zimbabwe team have suggested such tactical indiscipline. This was too much for proud Andy, who after 12 Tests and numerous one-day internationals in charge resigned the captaincy and vowed to recover the form which so clearly suffered from the strain of mixing leadership with wicketkeeping and batting.

Flower is not a man to wear emotion on a sleeve but when he reached his hundred with the most impudent reverse-sweep he allowed himself a raise of the helmet and a satisfied grin. Back at Epsom College, in England, where he coached cricket last summer while playing club cricket for Eastbourne, the boys must have been grinning, too, because straight down the middle 'Mr Flower' had not seemed the sort to reverse the sweep.

Yet this one stroke said more about Andy than any other. At once he displayed his natural and easy flair for cricket; it demonstrated his tough, uncompromising side which can be mistaken for arrogance and it explained his release from the tension inhibiting his game.

He had played a cracking old-time Test innings. A middle-order effort with which a Barrington or a Border would have been pleased.

Each time England took wickets and threatnened to take control Flower dug in. His uncomplicated technique, which is hinged on the back-foot and expands with orthodox cover-drives, and his ability to judge line and to leave well alone around off-stump, ensured that he was rarely inconvenienced by the limp English attack. It will be a surprise if, by the end of this tour, the English attack is not further inconvenienced by him.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 15:06