image_20121118095334

Andy Flower’s Midas touch © Getty Images

 

Seldom does one come across a player who does little wrong over an extended period of time. Andy Flower was one such rarity 12 years ago. On November 18, 2000, he smashed an unbeaten 183 against India in their own backyard to commence what was a surreal journey. In the next one year, he scored 1466 runs at a staggering average of 133.27, with centuries and fifties against formidable sides like New Zealand, South Africa and India.

 

To tear into the Indian bowlers on a typical Indian wicket on the first day of a Test requires tremendous prowess, and Flower’s brilliance was there for everyone to see at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla. Having decided to bat first, Zimbabwe looked like folding up for a mediocre total when they were at 155 for five. But the unflappable Flower steered his side out of troubled waters with assistance from the lower-middle order.

 

Zimbabwe eventually posted a challenging 422 in their first innings, with Flower remaining unconquered on 183. Flower and Henry Olonga added 97 for the 10th wicket, a last wicket record for Zimbabwe in Tests that still stands.
The way Flower handled the Indian spinners, Sunil Joshi and Murali Karthik, was inspirational. Flower negated the threat of the turning ball by unearthing the reverse sweep and playing it effectively and fearlessly.

 

Alistair Campbell summed up Flower’s memorable phase: “The series definitely belonged to Andy Flower. His batting was truly outstanding and his mental strength unwavering. His scores of 183 not out, 70, 55 and 232 not out speak for themselves. One can get no better compliment than from the Indian players themselves who said that his batting was the best they had seen by any foreign batsman on Indian wickets – high praise indeed.”
In the second Test at Nagpur, Flower scripted one of the best innings of his career, scoring an unbeaten 232, while displaying admirable mental tenacity. And in the next 13 months Flower tormented bowlers to amass 1466 runs. The Test against South Africa at Harare in September 2001 will forever be etched in his memory, although the Zimbabweans lost by nine wickets. In response to South Africa’s first innings total of 600 for three, the hosts were bundled out for just 286, with Flower scoring 142 of those runs. Asked to follow-on, Zimbabwe managed 391 this time, with Flower stranded at the other end unbeaten on 199. He got assistance on a sporadic basis from the likes of Alistair Campbell and brother Grant Flower, but the onus of Zimbabwe’s batting during this phase was on him, and he seldom disappointed.
In 12 Tests between September 2000 and November 2011, Andy Flower’s run of scores read: 48 and 65 (vs NZ), 183 not out and 70, 55 and 232 not out (all against India), 79 (vs NZ), 73, 23 (both against Bangladesh), 51, 83, 45, 8 not out (all against India), 142, 199 not out, 67 and 14 not out (all against South Africa). That’s Bradmanesque!

 

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)