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The Electronic Telegraph India v Zimbabwe, Group A
Mihir Bose - 19 May 1999

Olonga risk rewarded as Zimbabwe snatch victory

Zimbabwe (252-9) bt India (249) by 3 runs

The World Cup finally produced a thrilling match to justify its label of Carnival of Cricket. What is more, it was also an upset with Zimbabwe, considered not much better than fodder for the big boys, pulling off an amazing victory by three runs with six balls left.

When Henry Olonga was called up to bowl the penultimate over of the match it seemed, after a rollercoaster ride, the Indians would win the match. They required nine runs, with three wickets in hand and it appeared only a matter of pacing things. Two runs came off the next ball.

Howzat: India's Javagal Srinath is bowled out by Zimbabwe's Henry Olonga as Olonga

Olonga seemed a very risky choice for Alistair Campbell, the Zimbabwean captain. The last time he had had the ball he had struggled, twice delivering nine-ball overs, with six wides.

But then, as so often, the dud turned the match-winner. With his second ball he had Robin Singh, who at 35 seemed to be guiding India to victory, caught by Campbell at mid-off. Three balls later, with India now requiring only four runs to win, he bowled Srinath and the next ball he had Prasad lbw.

The lone flag carrier of the Zimbabwean supporters emerged and posed triumphantly in the middle of the ground, as well he might, while thousands of Indians who had throughout the day boisterously and good-naturedly claimed victory fell silent. India must now win all three of their remaining matches to stand a chance of qualifying for the Super Six.

If Olonga was the surprising hero of the Zimbabwean victory, then the Indians will not have to look hard to find villains. The bowlers wasted the opportunity they had of first exploiting a bouncy, juicy wicket and their batsmen at various times got into positions from which it seemed they could only win.

The first of these was during the 99-run partnership between Sadagopan Ramesh, playing his first match in England and drafted in for the Sachin Tendulkar and Ajay Jadeja. Coming together when India were 56 for three with their three main batsmen, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Azharuddin all out - and all having got themselves out - Ramesh and Jadeja played so sensibly that with 20 overs left India needed to score another hundred at just over five an over.

But then Grant Flower, whose 10 overs cost just 33 runs, had Ramesh caught and soon after Jadeja fell lbw to Heath Streak.

But Robin Singh, finding a useful partner in Nayan Mongia, threatened to turn the game round and had almost done so when Olonga reappeared.

The match had begun in extraordinary circumstances. The players lined up for a minute's silence to mark the death of Tendulkar's father.

The Indian players, who learned of the departure of their great batsman only in the morning, seemed to be deeply affected by it. While some in the Indian camp felt that it was an opportunity to show that there could be World Cup life without Sachin, the Indians bowled and fielded as if they did not really believe it.

Azharuddin, having decided to field first, provided an ideal opportunity for Srinath and Prasad to demonstrate that they were ideally suited to make the best of these conditions. Srinath began well and claimed Johnson, Zimbabwe's match-winner against Kenya, with the score on 12 in the third over. But though Zimbabwe lost wickets regularly, so wayward were the Indian bowlers that they gifted Zimbabwe 51 runs in extras, six overs and one ball in wides and no-balls. They had to pay a heavy price for it for by the time scheduled close of the Zimbabwean innings came at 2.15 India had bowled only 46 overs. The rules decreed that while they had to complete the 50 overs they would only be able to bat for 46.

The Zimbabwean batting was largely the work of the Flower brothers. Grant, the younger by two years, opened the batting and stayed until the 32nd over, taking 89 balls for his 45 with only four fours. This, combined with his excellent bowling, earned him the man of the match award.

Andy, who put on 57 with him, made 68 not out in 85 balls hitting only two fours. At one stage the Zimbabweans had recovered so well from the early blows that they looked like they could reach 280. Kumble, India's best bowler, prevented that, but in the end he could only stand and watch as Olonga celebrated.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk