Flower blooms as India surrender the initiative

India 237 Zimbabwe 301-8
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The Independent Online

Grant Flower was left unbeaten on 80 as Zimbabwe forged a 64-run lead over India on the second day of the Second Test at the Harare Sports Club yesterday. The hosts had reached 301 for 8 by the close, giving themselves a chance of levelling the two-Test series.

Zimbabwe resumed in disarray at 31 for 3 but managed to stave off the threat of Ashish Nehra, the left-arm paceman playing in only his third Test who had grabbed all three victims the previous evening.

In 19 overs yesterday, Nehra added only one further victim to his haul, the Academy all-rounder Travis Friend who was the last wicket to fall, and he ended up with figures of 4 for 72. Instead it was the off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, the scourge of the Australians in the recent home series, who took the bowling plaudits for the day, returning 3 for 67.

Grant's brother Andy fell five runs short of his habitual half-century in a stand of 87 for the fourth wicket with the rookie opener Dion Ebrahim. The former captain fell to Harbhajan five overs before lunch, caught at forward short leg by Shiv Sunder Das, but not before he had moved past 1,000 runs against the Indians in his 13th innings against them. It was only the second time they have dismissed him for less than 50, but his 45 took just 65 balls and included five boundaries.

Three overs later, just before the lunch interval, Ebrahim was trapped lbw by Harbhajan to leave the home side in trouble again on 110 for 5. He fell one run short of his half-century but his 49 in almost three hours was his highest Test score.

Zimbabwe's captain, Heath Streak, joined Grant Flower at the crease and the experienced pair added 65 runs after lunch, and once again the innings was in the process of being rebuilt.

Streak had made 40 when he was bowled padding up to a googly from the occasional leg-spinner Sachin Tendulkar. His 81-ball stay had included five fours, and the tempo was maintained when Andy Blignaut helped Flower put on 39 in a 25-minute spell before tea. After the break, Blignaut was stumped by Samir Dighe for 35, again off Harbhajan, after he and Flower had put on 67 for the seventh wicket. His innings lasted 39 deliveries, in which he hit two sixes and four fours.

Six overs into the final session, Grant Flower registered his 12th Test half-century off 129 balls. He received solid support from the debutant Friend, who hung around for 50 minutes before he was bowled by Nehra with the second new ball.

Brian Murphy then survived a typically aggressive welcome from Nehra but he carried on where Friend had left off, allowing Flower to continue his patient vigil. His 80 not out had consisted of 216 balls and featured 11 boundaries.