First Test Match

Zimbabwe v India 2001

At Bulawayo, June 7, 8, 9, 10. India won by eight wickets. Toss: Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe sealed their own fate with an inept batting performance on the opening day; from then on, they were engaged in a vain battle for survival in their country's first winter Test. Choosing to bat, they had struggled against some early life and movement, but this was no excuse for the poor strokes that cost most of them their wickets. Andy Flower, as so often, made the top score, but his 51 off 45 balls comprised an uncharacteristic array of daring strokes never suggesting permanence. A total of 173 was Zimbabwe's lowest against India.

Their bowlers struck back in the closing session with three wickets, and next morning, despite lacking the accuracy needed to put pressure on the batsmen, they reduced the tourists to 98 for five. Tendulkar and Dravid checked that advance and had taken India into the lead before Tendulkar was brilliantly caught by Carlisle at second slip, having batted responsibly over three hours for 74. When Dravid followed 30 runs later, there was a good chance Zimbabwe might keep the lead down to 50, but not for the first time an opponent's eighth wicket wrested the match away. In 1999-2000, Zimbabwe had conceded three eighth-wicket century stands; this time, the damage was 72. Harbhajan Singh hit out with merry abandon for a maiden Test fifty as the last three partnerships added 110 and stretched the lead to 145. By now, a strained hamstring had robbed the attack of Olonga, himself a last-minute replacement for the injured all-rounder Travis Friend, who had been earmarked to make his debut.

The home side ended the second day still 66 behind, with seven wickets left. But the third day belonged to them, and particularly to the Flower brothers, the heart of Zimbabwe's batting throughout their nine-year Test history. Only four wickets were lost during the day for 224 runs, and both Flowers made fighting fifties - Andy's was his ninth in ten Test innings - but no one produced the monumental score required to turn the tables. India's best bowler, Nehra, was ordered out of the attack by umpire Harper after two warnings from umpire Tiffin for running on the pitch. His fellow left-arm seamer, Zaheer Khan, was also warned twice, arousing suspicions that this was a deliberate policy by the Indians to rough up the pitch for Harbhajan's off-spin. In fact, Zimbabwe played Harbhajan with great determination and never let him gain control.

When Grant Flower ran himself out in the third over of the fourth day, the end was in sight. The pitch was too good to give India many misgivings as they contemplated a target of 184, especially as the home attack was further handicapped by Streak's bad knee preventing him from bowling. But there was bitter disappointment for the Zimbabweans when an appeal for a leg-side catch against Das, off the second ball of the innings, was rejected. Das also survived on 18 when Blignaut missed a low return catch, and was dropped on 49 by Murphy before guiding his side to victory with a sound, unbeaten innings of 82. The opportunity was there for a century, but the free strokeplay of Laxman and Tendulkar made it increasingly unlikely. This was India's first win in any Test outside Asia for 15 years.

Man of the Match: S. S. Das.

© John Wisden & Co