Cricket: Flower shows all batsmen the way

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The Independent Online
Zimbabwe have so far taught England two lessons about the requirements of success on this desperately slow pitch. On the first day the bowlers underlined the importance of pitching the ball up and bowling straight; on the second the batsmen demonstrated the necessity for careful stroke selection.

Numerically, this must seem to be just about the dullest Test match in history. In 310 minutes on the first day 137 runs were scored from 73 overs; in a fraction more than four hours on the second, 112 came from 59 and yet it has always been absorbing.

This has been the ultimate grafters wicket and the Zimbabwean batsmen restrained themselves better than their English counterparts.

After the early loss of Mark Dekker, Grant Flower showed that if there is one batsmen in the world better able to cope on such a surface, it is his brother Andrew.

The combined adhesiveness of the Flowers can be taken for granted. What could not was the way in which Alistair Campbell and Dave Houghton, both natural stroke makers, did their best to curb their instincts. Campbell managed for 18 overs while Houghton, not without occasionally making the bowlers think they had a chance, has so far been in for 25 overs.

Grant Flower provided the inspiration and example as he pushed and deflected and occasionally drove, foot to the pitch and head right over the ball. His concentration is of Boycott proportions.

He never cut or hooked, he never grew impatient and seemed set only on playing an even longer innings than the 112 his brother made in 365 minutes last week in Bulawayo.

If they bat together for any length of time in this innings it will be as close to stalemate as cricket is ever likely to get.

Campbell, tall, lithe and left-handed began by trying to drive Robert Croft and, to his increasing frustration, was never able to time the ball. He soon realised the folly of his ways and became happy to join his partner in a desultory search for singles. From time to time as a variation he used the pace of the seamers to glance or run the ball to third man.

Houghton was even more praiseworthy for he looked more out of sorts when having to play this sort of game. He took few real risks and he was only prepared to sweep the spinners when the ball was pitched outside off stump.

The England batsmen, who are likely to have quite a job on their hands in the second innings, had better have taken note.