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Benson and Hedges Cup: Cunning Strang seeks to be Kent's controlling influence

By Geoffrey Dean

Friday 11 July 1997

ONLY two players in the last 12 years have scored a hundred and taken five wickets in an innings in the same Test match. One was Wasim Akram. The other was Paul Strang - last October against Pakistan. Just as Wasim has helped win cup finals for Lancashire and his country, so too could the Zimbabwean for Kent in tomorrow's Benson and Hedges final at Lord's.

It will be hard to keep Strang out of the game, whether it be with his wrist spin, batting or brilliant fielding in the ring. In the B & H zonal match between tomorrow's finalists in April, Surrey had made one of their customary blitzkrieg starts when Steve Marsh brought Strang on at 101 for one after 12 overs. His return of 10-2-27-2 was the key to restricting Surrey to 257 and ultimately to Kent's victory.

Strang's control is on a par with Shane Warne's at one-day level. The main difference between them is that whereas the Australian will try to use his flipper but rarely his googly, Strang's preference is the reverse. His googly is much better disguised than Warne's. Strang's is difficult to pick. ``Graham Thorpe didn't have a clue in Zimbabwe initially when I bowled it,'' said Strang, ``although by the end of the tour he was better. But Stewart read me quite well.''

Dave Houghton, the Zimbabwe and Worcestershire coach, believes that Strang's bowling could be decisive. ``Especially if people don't read him and he gets on top, in which case he can go right through you. In the semi against Northants, he took out the entire middle-order and won it. Leggies are crafty and cunning - if he's aware that someone like Alec Stewart has picked him, he'll adopt new disguises, so you can never say 100 per cent that they've picked him.''

Strang is still working on his flipper, but feels that he can land it only six times out of 10. ``I've hardly bowled it this season. I basically learnt it from Warney. We went out, just the two of us, a couple of years ago in the World Series Cup to a wine bar. To explain a certain type of ball, he picked up a lemon and bowled it down the bar. He did the same with a cue ball when we had a game of pool. Where he really helped me was with the mental side.''

Strang never stops seeking advice. Abdul Qadir, Richie Benaud, Mushtaq Mohammad, Mushtaq Ahmed as well as Anil Kumble have all had their brains tapped. Only last year, Strang went to Lord's and bought the MCC's book on leg spin by Peter Philpott. ``It's the best of many I've read on the art,'' said Strang.

As for his batting, he can be highly annoying to bowl at as he hits the gaps with unorthodox methods. At Centurion Park against India this February, he won a one-day international with 48 at quicker than a run a ball when Zimbabwe needed 105 off the last 15 overs with wickets in hand.

His other strengths are his fielding and his ``exceptional attitude'', in the view of team-mate Matthew Fleming. Having chipped and dislocated his left little finger in a Sunday League game, he admits ``it hurts like hell'' when he takes a blow on it. He has been staying out of the ring as a result, but, typically for such a strong team man, wants to go back there tomorrow. ``He has a wonderful work-hard attitude, `` said Fleming. ``He's a real asset to the team and we're really lucky to have him.''

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 15:08