When the minnows came out to play

Zimbabwe v India, Harare, 1992
The build-up to Zimbabwe’s inaugural Test did not quite measure up to Bangladesh’s debut almost eight years later. The opponents were the same, however. India made a stop in Harare on their way to South Africa, and struggled. The ninth Test-playing nation certainly made a mark, its captain, Dave Houghton, scoring 121 on debut and the Flower brothers, the mainstays of Zimbabwe’s batting in the years to follow, making half-centuries. The cricket wasn’t the most exciting, with scoring rates of just over two for the most part and less than that in India’s innings, but the visitors were given a scare. India were in trouble at 101 for 5 in response to 456, but Sanjay Manjrekar batted for close to nine hours for his grinding century, and was backed up by the tail to shut out the possibility of any upset. The game was also a significant one for offspinner John Traicos, who, having represented South Africa in his younger days, returned to Test cricket after 22 years at the age of 45, bowled 50 overs and grabbed a five-for.
Zimbabwe v Pakistan, Harare, 1995
The Flowers were at the forefront of Zimbabwe’s first ever Test win, a massive one at that against Pakistan, four years after they made their debut. The upset began with confusion at the toss, when Saleem Malik called “bird”, the national symbol on one side of the coin, instead of heads, and won. The match referee Jackie Hendricks claimed he hadn’t heard the call and asked for a re-toss, with Andy Flower calling rightly this time. It was a significant moment and Zimbabwe made the most of it: Grant Flower scored 201 while Andy Flower and Guy Whittall notched up tons in a total of 544 for 4 against an attack that included Wasim Akram and Aaqib Javed. Heath Streak bagged six wickets to force a follow-on and Pakistan crumbled to 158 all out in their second attempt. They roared back to win the series 2-1, but by then Zimbabwe had earned plenty of respect.
Zimbabwe v England, Bulawayo, 1996
England was the only country to vote against Zimbabwe gaining full Test status which made an uneasy backdrop to the first full series between the nations in 1996. There was more acrimony once it got underway. England, as some of their players later admitted, underestimated their opponents and the England team and its management were not on the best of terms after wives and girlfriends were disallowed on the tour. Then, Michael Atherton shaking hands with Robert Mugabe was a moment the England captain looked back with embarrassment many years later.
The first Test was a thriller that went down to the last ball. On the final day England needed 205 in 37 overs. With Nick Knight and Alec Stewart leading the way, they brought it down to 87 off last 15 with nine wickets in hand. But Zimbabwe frustrated them by bowling wider to contain the runs. Andy Flower admitted it “got quite niggly out there”, and in the last over from Streak, with the visitors needed 11, Knight smashed a six off the third ball. Three were needed off the final delivery, he managed just two and was run out attempting the third. The result was the first draw in Tests with the scores level. David Lloyd, the England coach, was an angry man at the end of it all. “We flippin’ murdered ’em,” he said. “Hammered them. Bloody steamrollered them. They know it and we know it.”
Zimbabwe v India, Harare, 1998
Close to six years after they made their Test debut, Zimbabwe won their first Test series, though it was just one match long. India got the first-innings lead but Zimbabwe’s openers Gavin Rennie and Craig Wishart led the fightback with a 138-run stand. Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh triggered a collapse though, and Zimbabwe slipped from 201 for 1 to 293 all out. Set 235 for a win, India would have backed themselves to win an overseas series for the first time since 1993. But a pace attack comprising Streak, Henry Olonga, debutant Neil Johnson and Pommie Mbangwa derailed a batting line-up that included several big names, to secure a win by 61 runs.
Zimbabwe v Pakistan, Peshawar, 1998
Arguably Zimbabwe’s finest achievement in Tests. Despite Johnson’s fluent century – after his team had been struggling at 115 for 6 – Pakistan held the advantage with a lead of 58. But things unravelled in the second innings, as Streak, Olonga and Mbangwa bowled them out for 103. Zimbabwe chased down the target of 162, led by Murray Goodwin’s unbeaten 73, on the fourth day, overcoming the threat of Wasim, Waqar Younis, Aaqib and Mushtaq Ahmed to take a 1-0 lead; the series was won with the next Test drawn and the third washed out. Aamer Sohail, the Pakistan captain, as reported by Wisden, criticised the selectors for not picking the right team and the curator’s decision to prepare a greentop. Zimbabwe, on the other hand, had upset two of the subcontinent’s powerhouses.
Zimbabwe v India, Harare, 2001
India feature prominently in some of the significant moments in Zimbabwe’s Test history. They had achieved something historic themselves in 2001 when they won in Bulawayo – their first Test win outside the subcontinent since 1986. But their dreams of a maiden series win outside the subcontinent in that same period were crushed by Streak’s team in the second Test in Harare. Supported by the Flowers, he led the way in an all-round effort, taking three wickets and scoring 40 in the first innings to give his team a handy lead. He stepped up again in the second innings to bag four more, but was bettered by Andy Blignaut’s five-for. Streak dismissed Tendulkar and Blignaut saw off Dravid and Ganguly. Set 157 to win, Stuart Carlisle guided the hosts with an unbeaten 62 and Blignaut gave him company as Zimbabwe squared the series. It was their last Test win against a team other than Bangladesh.
Bangladesh v India, Dhaka, 2000
Dhaka was abuzz with excitement on the most significant day in Bangladesh’s cricketing history, their first day in Test cricket. Disregarding murmurs of the political machinations that made their promotion possible, Bangladesh rose to the momentous occasion, with Habibul Bashar’s free-spirited 71 taking them to 239 for 6 by stumps on day one. The second day was all about Aminul Islam, who became the country’s first centurion and swelled the score to 400. While the home team and its supporters basked in euphoria, India wrested away control unnoticed. Their lower half’s resilience helped them take the lead, before Bangladesh betrayed inexperience to capsize for 91 in the second innings. India won by nine wickets, but this match was never going to be about the outcome.
Bangladesh v Pakistan, Multan, 2003
On the first day of the Multan humdinger, starts were thrown away generously by Bangladesh’s batsmen, with the exception of Habibul who made 72 in a total of 281. Pakistan then suffered one of their periodic batting meltdowns, crumbling to 175 against Mohammad Rafique’s left-arm spin and Khaled Mahmud’s amiable trundle. The match was now Bangladesh’s to lose, and their batsmen obliged with a shoddy effort, as Umar Gul and Shabbir Ahmed bowled them out for 154. Inzamam then shepherded a stop-start chase, after building on the openers’ start and surviving the middle-order’s implosion. The eighth wicket fell with Pakistan still 56 away, but Gul came out determined to stonewall, while Inzamam kept chipping away. Mahmud removed Gul with Pakistan needing four more, but the debutant No. 11 Yasir Ali – who has not played a Test since – played out the next three balls before turning the strike over. Inzamam stroked a boundary next ball to win the match, tipping Bangladesh over tragically short of the summit.
Bangladesh v Zimbabwe, Chittagong, 2005
After 34 winless Tests (of which only three were drawn) in a little over four years, Bangladesh tasted victory for the first time against fellow strugglers Zimbabwe. The win was set up by another solid 94 from Habibul, now captaining the side, assisted by Rajin Saleh’s 89 and key contributions from Nafees Iqbal, Mohammad Rafique and Mashrafe Mortaza. Zimbabwe struggled in reply to the imposing 488, but Tatenda Taibu and Elton Chigumbura ensured they got past 300. Habibul stroked another half-century in the second innings to set Zimbabwe 381 to win, a target they fell well short of thanks to Enamul Haque jnr’s six-for.
Shakib Al Hasan led from the front with an unbeaten 96, West Indies v Bangladesh, 2nd Test, 4th day, Grenada, July 20, 2009

Bangladesh v Australia, Fatullah, 2006
For the second time in three years, Bangladesh found themselves in an impregnable position against a top-flight team, but suffered for not knowing what to do next. After Shahriar Nafees’ rambunctious 138 allowed Bangladesh to roll along to 427, Australia were in the doldrums at 93 for 6. Enter Adam Gilchrist, who counterattacked like only he can, smashing 15 fours and six sixes in his 144, as Australia scrapped past the follow-on mark. A familiar script played out thereafter as the Bangladesh line-up combusted for 148, setting Australia a gettable 307. Those were the years when Australia rarely slipped, and the game seemed to have gone their way as Matthew Hayden gritted along to 72, before Ricky Ponting took charge. Rafique kept fighting, and his four wickets meant 183 for 2 became 277 for 7, but Ponting hung around to deny Bangladesh again.
Bangladesh v West Indies, Grenada, 2009
It may have come against a second-string West Indies side hit by a contracts dispute, but that did not take the sheen away from Bangladesh’s first overseas series win. Shakib Al Hasan, on his way to becoming one of the top allrounders in the game, picked up eight wickets to go with a stunning 96 in the second innings to mastermind the win. After restricting West Indies to 237 in the first innings, Bangladesh responded with 232, reducing the game into a veritable second-innings shoot-out. Shakib then squeezed the life out of the home batting line-up, with a spell of 5 for 70 from 25 overs of relentless left-arm spin. Chasing 215, Bangladesh were in trouble at 67 for 4, but Shakib marched out and played like a man who could do no wrong. Darren Sammy’s five-for went in vain as Bangladesh completed a four-wicket win. Having won the previous Test by 95 runs, they took the series 2-0.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: