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John Ward has interviewed the Zimbabwe captain Alistair Campbell about Zimbabwe's part in the recent triangular tournament in Kenya.

The flight to Kenya was rather a shambles: the direct flight there was cancelled, so we had to travel via Johannesburg. We left Harare at 12 o'clock midday on what should have been a three-hour flight, but did not arrive in Nairobi until about nine o'clock at night.

Our welcome at the airport was very nice and we were taken to our hotel. It was reasonable accommodation I can't say it was the best hotel we've ever stayed in, but it was acceptable. When you look at Nairobi, it's not the best place in the world; you wouldn't want to go there on holiday! I gather that the rest of Kenya is really beautiful Mombasa and the interior, with the game parks but Nairobi itself is a real hell-hole. It was chaos, really there are too many people there, it's not very clean and there is a lot of crime. It's not the best place to be, but we survived. There is a lot of instability there as well, a lot of political manoeuvring it's not the safest place in the world.

They only have two reasonably good grounds in Nairobi I wouldn't say they were fabulous. The pitches are slow and low, and the outfields are rough and uneven, much like the Indian subcontinent. The weather there is humid and quite hot, much like here in Zimbabwe. I think it rains a bit more there, and they have a rather more tropical climate. It's a bit higher up, so it's harder to breathe and needs a bit of adjustment from here.

One ground, the Gymkhana Club Ground, plays slow and low, and is really just rolled mud. The other, the Aga Khan Stadium, has a bit more grass on it, rather like our tracks back in Zimbabwe, but the ball still does not really carry through to the keeper; it still tends to play slow and low.

Practice facilities were really non-existent. We didn't have any nets; all they gave us was a centre wicket and we had to put a net around it it had holes in, and they didn't cover it, so after rain we couldn't practise on it. But they did try their best they're an up-and-coming nation and it's very hard for them to produce everything up to world standards. I'm sure the more they plan and the more teams visit there, the more revenue they will have, and the facilities will improve.

We would have liked a good practice on a couple of days, but with the tight schedule we had we felt that on the other days it was important to rest. We did try to practise on a few of our days off, but there was a nice pool there, and we often took a break from cricket and just rested by the pool. I think that in a tournament like this, when the games are so close together, that rest is very important. We tried to balance it between practices and rest days. When we felt that the guys needed a run-around, we went and did that, and when we felt that they had had a hard game and needed a rest because we were playing again the next day, we did that.

We didn't have time to get around and see the rest of the country at all, because everywhere we go is at least a three- or four-hour drive. The last thing you want to do after a game is get up at six in the morning, take a four-hour drive, spend two hours at a place and then take another four-hour drive back. There was talk of going to a game park, but the guys weren't very happy with the thought of sitting in a bus for long periods of time. A lot of Zimbabweans go on holiday to Mombasa lovely scuba-diving, good fishing, and a good place to go with the family on holiday. But as far as Nairobi is concerned, those two centres are chalk and cheese.

There is not much cricket played in the country outside Nairobi itself; it's the main centre. Cricket is played quite passionately there. It's amazing: wherever you have Moslems and Hindus involved, there is a lot of passion. Their club matches are very keenly contested, with big crowds, and everyone is under pressure. It is quite fanatical over there among the Asian community.

The crowds were very poor at these matches there, ranging perhaps from just 100 to no more than 1000. I don't think it was marketed well enough and I don't think that any of the sides provided a big enough drawcard to get the crowds in. The Kenyan Cricket Board lost a lot of revenue from that tournament.

First Match: Zimbabwe v Bangladesh, at Gymkhana Club

We won the toss and batted first. We had a really good opening stand between the Flower brothers, Grant getting 79 and Andy 81. Craig Evans failed to score, but then came some great stuff from Guy Whittall with 79, and some good contributions at the end, a run a ball, from myself and Gavin Rennie. We ended up on 305 for four, which is a pretty good score.

Then we got a bit of a scare, to be honest. The Bangladeshis came out with nothing to lose and batted really well. They were looking quite good at one stage, at 183 for four in something like 30 overs, so they had plenty of time to spare to get the runs. It was a small field and a pretty quick outfield. But we came back well at the end, with Paul Strang bowling quite well and Grant Flower extremely well at the end, taking two for 30 off 7 overs. So we got them out for 257 and won by 48 runs.

We had a good batting display, but the bowling left a lot to be desired: we didn't get the ball in the right area consistently enough, and the fielding wasn't really up to scratch apart from one magnificent catch by Andrew Whittall that will long be remembered in Kenya and by the Zimbabwean team. He ran from long-off, dived full-length in front of the sightscreen and caught the ball one-handed a magnificent catch, and that was to get rid of Habibul Bashar, their top-scorer who made 70 and was going like a train. But apart from that, it was a pretty lack-lustre performance in the field.

I'm not surprised to hear that Bangladesh lost their first-ever first-class match by an innings, in New Zealand. All these sides can compete in one-day games, but as soon as it comes to the longer version of the game, they haven't had enough experience and struggle a bit. Kenya and Bangladesh are really way off Test-match standard at the moment; they will have to play first-class cricket for at least five or six years to get a good infrastructure going.

Second Match: Zimbabwe v Kenya, at Gymkhana Club

Again, the bowling was not good, and the fielding was dreadful this time round. We lost the toss; they elected to bat and made 249. As I said, it's quite a flat deck and a pretty quick outfield, and Kennedy Otieno, their opening bat, got 87, batting really well; there were useful contributions of thirties and twenties. Paul Strang bowled well again with three for 38, and good contributions from some of the others, but it wasn't our best performance.

We went in to bat, and lost Grant Flower and Gavin Rennie early on. We were 30 for two at one stage, and then Andy Flower batted really well for 72, Guy Whittall for 83, and they had a great partnership. Then the rain began to fall. We were given a revised target, requiring us to score 38 runs off 23 balls. Wishart and myself were out there; Wishy batted well and we had wickets in hand, so we could throw the bat at it, and we got there quite comfortably with three balls to spare.

It looks pretty close, but if it hadn't rained we would only have needed 5.5 runs an over from the last ten, so we would probably have won with three or four overs to spare. We were aware, at the first interruption for rain, that we were one run behind on the required run rate, but we always knew we would get back on. When we went back after the second interruption, we were ahead of the rate.

Third Match: Zimbabwe v Bangladesh, at Aga Khan Ground

This was a bit of a mismatch, really. The guys batted well: Andy Flower with 70 again missed out on a hundred, Guy Whittall another fifty, I got 40, and there were good contributions at the end from Wishy and Paul Strang. This took us up to 284, a good score for us on a bigger field. It wasn't the easiest pitch to bat on, especially early on, when the ball did seam a bit. It was a good accomplished performance, and batting was our strongest point in this tournament.

I'm afraid their innings was a bit of a circus: they were all out for 92, so we won by 192 runs. What can I say about Bryan Strang? 10 overs, 2 maidens, 6 for 20! It really was brilliant, and then the two leg-spinners, Paul Strang and Adam Huckle, took two for 22 and two for 27 respectively.

Fourth Match: Zimbabwe v Kenya, at Aga Khan Ground

Kenya batted first for 207, but they should have got nowhere near that; we should have bowled them out for 120. We had them at one stage 68 for six, so we let it slip a bit. We didn't bowl particularly well, and Odoyo and Suji took advantage of that. But 207 was never really enough, and we scored 210 for three in 41 overs, so we won with plenty of time and wickets to spare.

Andy Flower again and Grant had a good opening stand one of them should have got a hundred, though and then Gavin Rennie batted well with Guy Whittall before getting out needlessly with 8 runs required. A really comprehensive victory, but still our bowling was not easily able to put the final nails in the coffin. That's been a bit of a problem throughout this season, and that happened in this game; it's one thing that we need to sort out.

First Final: Zimbabwe v Kenya, at Gymkhana Club

We won the toss and scored 281. We seemed to get a good start and then lost our way a bit. After Grant Flower had scored 69 and Andy 79, we lost Gavin Rennie for 13 and Guy Whittall for 17, so from being in a good position at 154 for two, we declined to 193 for four, which is not really good enough. Someone should have capitalised there, but nevertheless I got a fifty off 51 balls, and Wishy scored 18 off 21 balls. That restored things somewhat and got the score up to 281, which was a reasonable score; it had been raining and the outfield was a bit slow now.

They got 172, so it wasn't really a contest. Paul Strang (8 overs for 29) bowled well and Grant Flower took two for 6 at the end. This was a good performance from us: we got our bowling a bit better, the fielding was good, and we put them under a lot of pressure. They really weren't ever in the hunt; although rain washed out part of their innings and reduced it to 40 overs, they weren't going to get anywhere close, with seven wickets down and two new batsmen in.

Second Final: Zimbabwe v Kenya, at Gymkhana Club

We won the second final by 82 runs. We won the toss and batted first again, and scored 272, which wasn't as good as it should have been. It was reduced to 49 overs because of a late start. A great effort again from Grant Flower, with 78. We lost an early wicket in Andy Flower, but Gavin Rennie and Grant put on a magnificent stand of 150, so we were two down for 168. Then we slumped to five for 193, losing needless wickets. Guy Whittall was run out after a mix-up with Gavin Rennie, Grant Flower was run out we had this little run-out syndrome again! Then I came in and scored 28, batting with Craig Evans for a large percentage of that innings.

Again we had Kenya in all sorts of trouble, with seven down for 70 and with no price, but they managed to get it up to 190 I'm not sure quite how! We let them off the hook again. It had been raining and the ball was quite wet, so it wasn't easy to grip. If you look at the bowling figures, you will see that Andrew Whittall opened the bowling for us, and he actually won this game for us, winning the man of the match for his 10 overs, three for 23. Bowling up front, this was a really great effort. Paul Strang in 10 overs took three for 37, so they did their job. Then Grant Flower took two for 44.

Andrew Whittall was a little expensive for us in the early matches, but he came back at the end when we decided to use him opening the bowling, and he did a really good job. If you go for five an over opening, we are happy with that, and he was going for less than that, which is a magnificent effort. The pitches did suit him, and the ball turned. He did a magnificent job, as did Paul Strang.

Adam Huckle was a bit unlucky. He bowls at a quicker pace than those two, and there were a lot of edges which don't flatter his figures. There was a lot of that block-block-block-slog for six scenario. He didn't bowl as badly as his figures suggest; he just didn't have much luck. That's how it goes in cricket: you get 16 wickets in a series, and then go to play weaker opposition that you expect to knock over and don't get anything. He didn't bowl at his best, but was not as bad as his figures say.

So it was a really comprehensive performance by us during the finals, and indeed throughout the tournament. Our batting was really good, apart from a few lapses; the bowling needs attention; and although it was a bumpy outfield we still dropped too many catches. Against this sort of opposition you can get away with it, but against better opposition, if you drop one of the better players, they will make you pay. It all bodes well for the future tours this season.

I think our victories here will help us do better when we're in a winning position in the future against the Test-playing countries. No matter what game you win, if you win it, you gain confidence and you go into the next game believing you can do it. This was actually rather a sticky assignment for us, playing against Kenya and Bangladesh, who have nothing to lose. It was our first tournament as favourites, and we were playing on wickets that they play well on. We don't play particularly well ourselves on low, slow turners. These guys are brought up on it, so they all get on the front foot and they know how to play on it.

But our guys acquitted themselves really well, and it's the improvement in our batting that has made the difference these last couple of seasons. We have been able to get runs on the board and be competitive, whereas before we were relying on our bowlers to bowl at targets of 160 or 170. I think this stemmed from the England tour and the triangular in South Africa. I don't think any team has scored as consistently as we did against South Africa: two sets of 230 and one of 250, which is a really good effort against that bowling attack. When you get big scores, you can put teams under pressure, as we did here. We just need a bit more attention to our fielding and bowling.

In Kenya we were actually missing all our strike bowlers: Streaky wasn't there, Brandes wasn't there and John Rennie wasn't there he does really well for us in one-dayers. The guys that were there bowled really well and took the opportunities someone like Bryan Strang it's going to be hard to leave him out of the next game after taking six for 20. It's creating good competition, and we just need to get the right bowling strategy together. I think we're going to favour spin, especially where we're going next (Sri Lanka). Spinners can play a large part for us.

We just need to work on our fielding, because we pride ourselves on what we can do in the field, and that's one department that we can be really good in.

All our fringe players showed glimpses of form, but our fringe batsmen weren't really given a chance. They were going in there right at the end and had to slog. Someone like Wishy played really well at number seven; whenever he was asked to do a job, he did it well. Dirk Viljoen didn't play. Gavin Rennie didn't have a particularly good tour, apart from one knock of 70 in the second final. In the bowling department, Everton Matambanadzo only had one game and was struggling a bit over there. Pom Mbangwa, when he did play, bowled really well, and he's fought himself into contention. I would have liked to play him in every game. The wicket at Aga Khan had a bit of grass and warranted playing a seamer, so he did play, but the other was just rolled mud and conducive to spin, and we just didn't have a place for him. When we had Bryan Strang and planned to open with Andrew Whittall, then we only needed one other seamer and that was Guy Whittall. Evans should have bowled well on these wickets, but didn't; he struggled a bit with his bowling. We also had Grant Flower bowling really well, and we used him a lot. So there wasn't really room to play another seamer; the Gymkhana is a bit of a graveyard for seamers.

But, all in all, the guys are learning to win, and I think that's the main thing. We're gelling into quite a good unit at the moment, and if we just take that with us to Sri Lanka and New Zealand there's no reason why we can't do well over there.

The Kenyans do have a couple of players with genuine Test potential. Their opening bowler Martin Suji is a good prospect, and then there are two batsmen, Steve Tikolo and Maurice Odumbe. They are both good players, especially Tikolo, who hits the ball so sweetly. Their wicket-keeper Kennedy Otieno chips in with some very valuable runs. They just need greater depth. I think they are much like we were: guys like Asif Karim are too old; they don't help them out in the field, they drop catches and are not contributing. As soon as they get some new blood and play a lot more matches against strong opposition and I think that's the key they are only going to get batter. They will scare a few people in one-day cricket, but in the longer version of the game they are still struggling because they don't play enough of it. In fact, they don't play any domestic three-day cricket at all. They are playing against England A, so that should give them a bit of experience, which will be good for them.


Date-stamped : 03 Jul1999 - 14:45