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Henry Olonga


England came out to Zimbabwe for their first official tour in December 1996 and as we expected it was a huge deal for Zimbabwe cricket. I was working my way back to fitness after another injury and was drafted in to play in the warm-up game between Matabeleland and the tourists. I was fielding at cover with Jack Russell and Robert Croft at the crease. They decided to take a quick single; the ball headed in my direction so I picked it up and dived as I threw it towards the stumps, extending my left arm to brace my fall. I landed awkwardly and immediately knew that I had injured my wrist, but I was not sure how badly so I went off the field, iced it and bandaged it up fro support. I tried to drive home that night in my first ever sponsored vehicle, which was a van, but I struggled to change gears so I got some elastic and taped up my wrist as firmly as I could.

I didn't want to miss the Test series so I didn't tell anyone about it. This was going to be one of those times when I would just have to bite the bullet. I had always been told that you never really play at 100 per cent, and sometimes you just have to grit your teeth through the pain barrier.

The England coach during that series was a certain David Lloyd. Bumble has gone on to build a reputation for himself as one of the best commentators and analysts in the game, but as a coach he sometimes said things that I am sure he later had cause to regret.

The first Test was played at Queens in Bulawayo. We scored 376 in our first innings, with yours truly being bowled for a duck. Thankfully, Andy Flower and Alistair Campbell were in imperious form, Flower scoring 112 and Campbell 84. England then made 406 but I bowled reasonably well, claiming three wickets including that of Nick Knight. I was out for another duck in our second innings total of 234, with all dreams of being a proper batsman now consigned to the dustbin of history. I got the wicket of Michael Atherton in the second innings, clean bowled, and they ended up needing three runs off the final ball to win. I have to admit that I miscalculated (I thought they needed four runs to win), so when the ball came to me I was perhaps a bit more relaxed in fielding the ball than I might otherwise have been. I quite casually threw it in to our wicketkeeper as the England players attempted to score the winning run and we ran out Nick Knight for 96. It was fortunate that I had kept my wits about me.

In the post-match interview David Lloyd said, "We murdered them. We got on top and steamrollered them. We have flipping hammered them. One more ball and we'd have walked it. We murdered them and they know it. To work so hard and get so close: there is no praise too high. We have had some stick off your lads. we flipping hammered them."

Yes, England should have won the first Test, but they didn't. We felt we gave them a good battle, so the comments of Lloyd were rather inaccurate because after five days of cricket the teams could not be separated.

Henry Olonga

Memory shared from Henry's autobiography `Blood, Sweat and Treason` which was longlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award and nominated for the˜Best Autobiography" award at the British Sports Book Awards 2011. Henry is a supporter of the Sporting Memories Network - news here

Follow Henry on Twitter @henryolonga


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Henry Olonga - picture courtesy of www.bloodsweatandtreason.comHenry Olonga - picture courtesy of www.bloodsweatandtreason.com