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Another special half-century for Flower

ANDY Flower is remembered best for his distinguished Test career for Zimbabwe, but he also played many brilliant ODI innings in his heyday.

By Enock Muchinjo

It is easy sometimes not to appreciate Flower’s one-day genius in its entirety if you take, for instance, that Brendan Taylor has scored six more centuries in this format — and that from a marked 31 games less than the great man’s tally.

Flower’s 145 against India in the 2002 Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka fully portrayed the character of the man, a quality player who could score freely in trying conditions, mark of a world-class batsman.

That fine knock by Flower in Colombo would be the last of his fourth ODI hundreds before his playing career was abruptly cut short a year later by the famous black-arm band protest of the 2003 World Cup.

It was a virtuoso show by Flower against a very good Indian side — Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh all in the attack for India — inspiring one of the finest one-day centuries you’ll ever witness.

Flower’s inability to convert one-day fifties into hundreds was the one stain on his fabulous career, but a vast majority of his 55 ODI half-centuries from 213 outings were of the outmost quality.

Perhaps none more so than his 51 against the all-conquering Australia team at Hobart during the Carlton Series in 2001 — to me as good as I have seen Flower, a player recognised at the first real superstar of Zimbabwean cricket.

With a reputation as one of the world’s best players of the reverse-sweep already well-established, Flower gave himself room and found the gap beautifully throughout the well-constructed innings.

After joining Zimbabwe century-maker and fellow left-hander Alistair Campbell at the crease, Flower took over the attacking role and played all shots in the book all around the park.

He particularly created problems for the spin bowlers, including the legendary leggie Shane Warne — rarely one to be found at the receiving end during the peak of his wizardry.

If there were ever batsmen in word cricket those days who were almost arrogantly confident in a particular shot in their armoury, one was Flower.

In one over in Hobart, Flower got underneath an off-break delivery, smashing a bemused Andrew Symonds over backward point for six with the rarest of reverse-sweeps in cricket.

Campbell (124) and Flower guided Zimbabwe to 279-6, but Mark Waugh’s undefeated 102 and his twin brother Steve’s 79 saw off the African side by six wickets with 36 ball remaining.

But Flower had been absolutely superb with his half-century, an innings the Australian island of Tasmania will not easily forget.

It was a marvellous half-century Down Under for the wicketkeeper-batsman, and it should have been heart-warming for Flower that it was Cricket Australia — the country’s cricket governing body — which led the tributes last weekend when the iconic Zimbabwean reached another half-century mark in his life.

Flower turned 50 on Saturday, celebrating his birthday thousands of miles away in England, away from a country he was once forced to flee in fear of political persecution. But nonetheless, a country to which he had professed undying love — a country he served with outmost distinction, loyalty and pride.

“A happy 50th birthday to one of the game’s best exponents of the reverse sweep, Andy Flower!”, twitted Cricket Australia on Saturday.

A lot has happened in Flower’s life since he first left Zimbabwe at the age of 35 back in 2003.

As England coach, he led the Poms to three Ashes series victories, guided them to the number one spot on the Test rankings and presided over a World Twenty20 title – an impressive coaching resume on top of an even more gratifying playing career.

Australians don’t take defeat well, and losing those Ashes series was obviously hard to swallow.

But the Aussies were gracious enough to remember Flower’s 50th birthday, as much as they will probably long remember his glorious 50 at Bellerive Oval in Hobart 17 years ago.

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