3rd ODI: India v Zimbabwe at Kochi, 13 Mar 2002
Anand Vasu

India innings: 25 overs, End of innings,
Pre-game: Toss & Teams,
Zimbabwe innings: 25 overs, End of play,

How many times do we see a batsman do all the hard work in setting up a team victory before throwing it away just when the job was near completion? Alistair Campbell deserved a century, if not at least a big unbeaten fifty, but he fell on 71 (119 balls, 7 fours) as he paved the way for a six-wicket Zimbabwe win at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.

After reaching his half-century, Campbell seemed to open up a bit more, playing some exquisite strokes through the on-side. A cover drive off Sarandeep Singh stood out, with Campbell leaning well into the off-side to execute the stroke perfectly. It was, however, the same man who brought about Campbell's dismissal.

In the 34th over of the innings, Campbell jumped down the track to Sarandeep and was beaten both in the flight and off the wicket. He could only look back in dismay as Ajay Ratra whipped off the bails.

By the time Campbell was dismissed, Zimbabwe had reached 144/3 and needed only a further 48 runs for victory. But Campbell did enter an exclusive club in his innings - he became just the third Zimbabwean to score 5000 ODI runs when he heaved Dinesh Mongia into the stands at midwicket.

Grant Flower, not looking for anything beyond a safe ride home for Zimbabwe, motored along to 49 (88 balls, 7 fours) before nicking one from Agarkar through to keeper Ratra.

Eventually Zimbabwe clinched victory by six-wickets and took a 2-1 lead in this 5-match series.

India got off to a tidy start in defence of their modest 191. Zimbabwe, on their part, were hardly fussed, confident in the knowledge that they would probably overhaul the total if they batted the full 50 overs. After surviving an energetic couple of spells early on from Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar for the loss of a couple of wickets, Zimbabwe reached 107/2 at the end of 25 overs. Alistair Campbell was on the verge of a well-made half-century.

Things began extremely well for the hosts, with Ajit Agarkar finding his rhythm from the word go. The Mumbai speedster generated good pace and carry, often beating the bat, before he got rid off Dion Ebrahim. Chopping at a ball that was very close to his body, Ebrahim (3) dragged the ball back onto his stumps.

Travis Friend, threatening to get after the bowling in his inimitable style, became Zaheer Khan’s first scalp. After lacing one through covers and following it up with a flick that ran away to the mid-wicket fence, Friend gave himself room outside the leg stump to play an inside-out shot through the off. Playing down the wrong line, Friend (15) ended up edging the ball onto his pad and subsequently onto the stumps.

At 39/2, there was some hope for the home side. A few more early breakthroughs would have tilted the scales in India’s favour – even with the target being just 192.

Alistair Campbell, content to seal up one end, batted with common sense, while Grant Flower was the ideal foil in the middle overs. Even the introduction of Harbhajan Singh did not faze the pair. Campbell, setting his stalls out for a long knock, did not mind biding his time. Taking no chances whatsoever, the left-hander blunted the bowling.

Grant Flower, almost permanently in the shadow of his brother, is really an underrated cricketer. With Andy Flower absent, brother Grant was promoted up the order, and he shouldered the responsibility admirably. Using his feet well, Grant Flower worked the ball away into the gaps on the leg-side with ease, before going for the big hit every now and then.

At the half-way mark of the Zimbabwe chase, Campbell (49 runs, 84 balls, 5 fours) and Grant Flower (30 runs, 47 balls, 5 fours) took Zimbabwe to 107/2, in comparison to India’s 92/4 at the same stage in their innings.

Mohammad Kaif has waited a long while before getting an extended run in the Indian team, all the while working hard on his fitness and battling in the domestic game. He showed at Kochi that he is a valuable component of this Indian team. Batting with great application and determination, Kaif compiled 56 (78 balls, 2 fours, 1 six), leading India to a score of 191 - something that looked extremely unlikely earlier in the day.

Another cricketer who has had his share of hard work without much glitz or glamour is Sanjay Bangar. After failing with the bat in the first two games of this series –scoring a total of zero runs from three balls in two innings – Bangar was under some pressure to come good. Despite being dropped once early on in his innings, the all-rounder put his head down and set his stalls out for a big score.

Coming together with the score on 51/4, Bangar and Kaif combined well. Rotating the strike with a regular stream of singles that came from wristy shots through the on-side, the pair kept the Zimbabwe bowlers at bay. Each had his favourite shot to fall back on – Kaif the short-arm pull through mid-wicket and Bangar the inside-out drive over extra cover.

Bangar (36 runs, 67 balls 3 fours), however, fell against the run of play. Coming down the track, he hit a Douglas Marillier high full toss straight down the throat of Hondo on the mid-wicket fence. The Railways all-rounder was involved in a 66-run partnership for the fifth wicket.

With Bangar back in the hut, the wickets began to fall with alarming regularity once more. Ajay Ratra (3) was brilliantly caught by a diving Marillier at mid-on off the bowling of Grant Flower. Ajit Agarkar (3) followed Ratra back to the hut soon after, being caught by Streak at short cover off the aforementioned left-arm spinner.

Just when Kaif looked set to bat out the full quota of 50 overs, he fell on 56, hitting Heath Streak to Wishart at mid-wicket.

The rest of the tail poked, prodded and did little of note as India failed to bat their quota of 50 overs, being knocked over for 191 in 48.3 overs.

Stuart Carlisle will be pleased with the performance of his team on the field. The bowlers kept up a good and sustained line and length and were well backed up by the fielders. After the early burst from Hondo (4/37) and Mbangwa, Grant Flower provided good support, bowling 10 overs for 35 runs and picking up 2 wickets in the process. Marillier, who is enjoying his tour of India, scalped 2/44 from his 10 overs.

India are known to produce wristy, elegant and hugely talented batsmen. There is however, little recorded history of India producing consistent batsmen. After scoring a whopping 320 in 50 overs at Mohali, India limped to 92/4 at the end of 25 overs, thanks mainly to some rearguard action from Mohammad Kaif and Sanjay Bangar.

There was much praise for Dinesh Mongia – describing him as a versatile cricketer, after the run-fest at Mohali. There is however, little to pat the lad on the back for after his early dismissal at Kochi. It would be fair however to say that Mongia was unlucky to be adjudged lbw to medium-pacer Douglas Hondo. Mongia (4) looked disappointed, and replays suggested that the ball might have pitched outside the leg stump.

VVS Laxman breezed to the wicket like a waft of fresh air, cutting the air with the kind of strokes that remind you that the man is capable of batting of the highest pedigree. Cover-driving as though it was the easiest thing in the world, Laxman got the Kochi crowd on their feet and cheering. But, as it often is with things of exceptional beauty or grace, Laxman departed almost as quickly as he arrived. After making 20 in 24 balls with 3 fours, Laxman slashed a wide one from Hondo through to keeper Taibu.

Sourav Ganguly is the kind of player who likes to go against the grain. Just when consolidation was the order of the day, with India struggling on 38/2, the Indian captain came down the wicket and attempted to deposit a Hondo delivery into the nearby Arabian Sea. Hondo was straight and full, Ganguly was not, the stumps were rearranged. Ganguly’s 11 did nothing for the Indian cause, and India were in strife at 49/3 in the 12th over.

Rahul Dravid, just the man to take India out of the woods, looked determined – at least as long as Zimbabwe allowed him to. Having watched Hondo snap up three wickets, Mpumelelo Mbangwa came to the party. Bowling a tight line just short of a length and outside the off, Mbangwa tempted Dravid into playing a late cut. The ball slid off the face of the bat and appeared to be beating Craig Wishart at a deep slip position. Out flashed the hands, late, quick and in perfect place to snap up a brilliant catch. Dravid (6) shook his head in amazement as he walked back to the pavilion.

51/4 and in deep, deep trouble were India when Kaif and Bangar were entrusted the task of rebuilding the innings. The pair could not afford to take any chances and were content just milking the bowling until the odd loose ball came along. Bangar had 11 to his name and Kaif 29, when the halfway mark was reached.

Hondo (3/32 from 8 overs) and Mbangwa (1/27 from 9 overs) were easily the stars of the session. The duo bowled a tight line and length and allowed the Indian batsmen to make mistakes – which the hosts duly did.

With the series level at one-all, the third one-dayer at Kochi takes on great significance, and both Zimbabwe and India will be looking to get a win under their belt here and wrest control of the series.

The pitch looks a great batting wicket, as is normal on the subcontinent for one-day internationals. Some green patches show up sporadically, but the track has, in the two one-dayers played here, tended to favour high scores and stroke-making.

The weather too seemed poised to play a decisive role; even with the little exertion that the toss involved, Zimbabwe captain Stuart Carlisle was perspiring freely, the heat and humidity both being very high. The toss was won again by Sourav Ganguly, who opted to take first strike as expected.

India lost the services of Anil Kumble due to injury, and Sarandeep Singh has been drafted in for the role of second spinner. Zimbabwe will greatly rue Andy Flower's hip injury that keeps him out of this game, for Flower has seemed in good nick. Gary Brent is also missing because of a viral infection; doing duty in this one-dayer are Douglas Hondo and Pommie Mbangwa.


India: Sourav Ganguly (captain), Dinesh Mongia, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Sanjay Bangar, Mohammad Kaif, Ajay Ratra (wicket-keeper), Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Sarandeep Singh

Zimbabwe: Stuart Carlisle (captain), Dion Ebrahim, Alistair Campbell, Grant Flower, Craig Wishart, Travis Friend, Douglas Hondo, Pommie Mbangwa, Douglas Marillier, Tatenda Taibu (wicket-keeper)

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Date-stamped : 13 Mar2002 - 20:07