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Zimbabwe in Sharjah - Alistair Campbell talks to John Ward

Note: This article was written for the Zimbabwe Cricketer magazine, the next issue of which will be published around the end of May. The editor is David Jones, of Pangolin Press, 5 Helena Close, Marlborough, Harare, Zimbabwe; phone 263-4-333222, or e-mail

Sharjah is in the United Arab Emirates, between Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, just half an hour's drive along the coast from Dubai. The cricket stadium was built by a cricket-loving oil multi-millionaire and is an oasis of green in the otherwise apparently endless desert. It is patronised by thousands of expatriate workers from the Indian subcontinent, who have now found a cricketing home from home. The local population is also gradually taking to the game.

This is where Zimbabwe finished their recent international season, in a triangular tournament also involving Pakistan and World Cup champions Sri Lanka. The Zimbabwe captain Alistair Campbell gives his views on the tournament to John Ward.

In our first game against Sri Lanka, we lost the toss and they elected to bowl first. This is what they normally do, as they like chasing targets, so we batted first on a pretty even-paced wicket. It was slow and low, but there were really no demons in it first time around.

We didn't bat well at all. Nobody got in there and grafted it out, apart from Andy Flower and Paul Strang. We batted better in the middle order, but it was very disappointing up front, except for Craig Wishart, who played really well before he was run out in a very silly fashion, just cantering through for a second run. But his 32 off 36 balls was really good, although a total of 187 on that wicket and that outfield wasn't going to be enough. We did bowl and field well, and if we had bowled and fielded as well in South Africa as we did in this tournament, I think we would have won a few more games down there. So we have yet to get all departments right.

That first game was a disappointment, and it was a considerable change of conditions for us. We were used to the quick pitches in South Africa and hadn't really played as a unit since then. We had had a month off, so getting back into playing international cricket was slow for us. But we learnt from that.

Posted score: ZIMBABWE 187/9 (C B Wishart 32, A Flower 38, P A Strang 38; W P U J C Vaas 3/25, M Muralitharan 2/39). SRI LANKA 188/3 (S T Jayasuriya 56, M S Atapattu 52*, P A de Silva 60). Sri Lanka won by seven wickets.

Our second match was against Pakistan, who won the toss and elected to bat. We really bowled and fielded magnificently, and restricted them to what we had scored in the first game, 187. On that wicket, although it was turning a bit and did get somewhat slower and lower, we should have at least come close to winning that game. But alas, we didn't apply ourselves; there were four run-outs, which was really not good enough, and were bowled out for 94, which is our lowest score in one-day internationals.

Potted score: PAKISTAN 187 (Ramiz Raja 20, Saleem Malik 33, Inzamam-ul-Haq 46, Mohammad Wasim 27; E Matambanadzo 2/25, H H Streak 3/37, G J Whittall 2/37). ZIMBABWE 94 (C B Wishart 29, A Flower 21*; Mushtaq Ahmed 2/20). Pakistan won by 93 runs.

So the first two games were very disappointing, to be honest; our bowling and fielding were fine, and it was just our batting that was letting us down. We were missing Dave Houghton and Craig Evans; Grant Flower wasn't staying in as he had done earlier in the season and I wasn't scoring any runs. The only recognised batsmen to put together any scores were Craig Wishart, who was batting well opening the innings, and Andy Flower. Nobody else was really firing, and a couple of them were struggling badly against the spinners. We needed to sort out a few things, so we had a team meeting and a really hard practice session. We decided how we would play on these wickets, and we knew that a score of around 215 would be a competitive total.

Against Sri Lanka Lanka we got 203, which didn't seem to be enough, but 200 was a psychological barrier that they had to cross. Yet again, although I keep repeating myself, we fielded and bowled magnificently, bowling them out for 153. This was a great effort to beat the world champions, and we did it in style. Every bowler got it there, bowled a good line and length, backed up by some tremendous fielding. If only our batting had had the same intensity, in hindsight, we could even have won this tournament.

Potted score: ZIMBABWE 203 (G W Flower 28, A Flower 42, A D R Campbell 30, G J Whittall 44, D P Viljoen 22; K S C de Silva 2/12, R S Kalpage 3/38, M Muralitharan 2/39, U U Chandana 2/41). SRI LANKA 133 (R S Mahanama 42, A Ranatunga 32, H P Tillakaratne 38; H H Streak 2/12, P A Strang 2/18, A R Whittall 2/38). Zimbabwe won by 50 runs.

This set up a great final game against Pakistan in this round-robin series. Whoever won this game got in the final, and we had them 51 for seven, which we should have converted, but never did. We bowled them out for 151, a target we would expect to reach nine times out of ten, but they did have three quality spinners. Mushtaq Ahmed is probably the best leg-spinner in the world along with Shane Warne, and Saqlain Mushtaq is probably the best off-spinner in the world, so we had our work cut out.

But we had three bad decisions -- Grant Flower was given out caught when it clearly hit his pad, Guy Whittall was given out caught when it hit his forearm, and Streaky at the end was given out lbw to a ball that was missing leg stump. So it was very disappointing after being 57 for two, with Strang and Andy Flower batting very well; the rest of us just didn't do the job, and it was extremely disappointing. We could and should have got into our first final, and we're not going to be presented with an easier opportunity to do that.

But all credit to Pakistan. Their spinners bowled really well; there was a lot of rough and it was like batting on the fifth day of a Test match. They utilised that to their advantage, and we didn't play well enough against their spinners to win the game. In spite of the disappointment, at the end of the tournament we had many people complimenting us and saying how we had improved. One of the goals we had set ourselves during the season was to become more competitive, which is what we have done. Our bowling and fielding was superb, while in South Africa we put sxome good scores on the board -- so maybe one day we'll get all our three departments right!

Potted score: PAKISTAN 151 (Moin Khan 61, Saqlain Mushtaq 20; E A Brandes 2/37, E Matambanadzo 2/32, H H Streak 4/18). ZIMBABWE 119 (A Flower 28, P Strang 26, D P Viljoen 25, H H Streak 20; Waqar Younis 2/14, Saqlain Mushtaq 2/37, Mushtaq Ahmed 4/27). Pakistan won by 32 runs.

Both of the other sides in the tournament played two seamers and three spinners. Our downfall in Sri Lanka was in playing against spinners on turning wickets, and teams from other parts of the world visiting the Indian subcontinent never win there easily. These guys are brought up playing on these sort of pitches, so the Indians, Sri Lankans and Pakistanis become the best players of spin bowling in the world. In the same way, their spinners become the best spinners in the world because they have to get to the top by dismissing their own batsmen, which is no easy task.

The pitches there were very comparable with the subcontinent: slow, low and turning. If we batted first, it was just slow and low, but batting second meant there was a lot of rough, and it got slower and lower as the match progressed. So it was hard to score on, and scores were never going to be really high. One guy got in and played really magnificently, and that was Aravinda de Silva, who scored mountains of runs in this tournament. He is one of the best players of spin bowling in the world, and he was the only one to make a big score in the whole competition. So it was difficult batting but, chasing scores of 150 or 180, we should have been able to get them.

Our downfall here was that we didn't play the spinners competently enough. There was also a lot of indecision regarding the running between the wickets; there were six run-outs, which is really not good enough, especially when it concerns some of the top batsmen.

We need to get more depth in our batting. Dave Houghton and Craig Evans are vital parts of our one-day side, and without them, if myself, Andy and Grant Flower fail to score runs then we get bowled out. It was a lot to ask of Grant, who has had a tremendous season and had to fail at one stage. But it does show the gaping hole in our depth which needs to be addressed. Dirk Viljoen had a useful tour, scoring a couple of twenties, and he looked all right. He showed a lot of promise and, if he works out a few minor points in his game, then he could be a good player for us in the future. Our top order didn't apply themselves enough. But clearly we have a lot of work to do to become more adept at playing spin bowling in the subcontinent.

Craig Wishart batted really well, dsespite running himself out a couple of times -- and, if we want to be harsh, the second time it probably cost us the game, because he wsas batting magnificently with Grant Flower. Then Grant was run out by a direct hit from Saleem Malik when he was backing up too far, and Wishart was run out almost immediately afterwards. It is such a blow to lose the top two to silly run-outs. But overall Craig came on really well.

Everton Matambanadzo bowled very well again, and he looks a great prospect for the future. Andrew Whittall always bowled well in conditions suited to his bowling. They all worked hard at their games, and this is good news for Zimbabwe cricket, as it gives us a bit more depth.

This season has been a good season for us, after Sri Lanka and Pakistan early on. Hopefully we can continue to build on the good foundation we have set, and look forward to what might happen next season.


Date-stamped : 03 Jul1999 - 14:46