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Zimbabwe v Pakistan

Flipping the bird – how a redone coin toss led to Zimbabwe’s first Test win

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Zimbabwe created history in 1995 when they won their first ever Test match, in their 11th Test, against Pakistan in Harare.

The hosts received a helping hand in unusual fashion from an unusual source. Pakistan captain Saleem Malik tried to have some fun at the coin toss, match referee Jackie Hendriks was having none of it, and Zimbabwe skipper Andy Flower was given the decision of whether to bat or bowl first.

Let’s backtrack. On the morning of day one of the first Test between Pakistan and Zimbabwe in Harare, the two captains and the match referee walked out for the pivtoal flip.

Zimbabwe, being the hosts, supplied the coin, with the national bird, an eagle, on one side of it. When Flower flipped the coin, Malik threw a spanner in the works and instead of calling out heads or tails, os one would normally expect, he just said ‘bird’.

The coin landed with the side having the eagle facing up, Flower agreed that Malik had won the toss and the Pakistani skipper chose to bat first. However, Hendriks decided they needed a re-toss as Malik’s call wasn’t clear enough.

Hendriks later said in an interview with The Daily Observer: “The incident had happened many years ago and I vividly remember the Pakistan captain saying something unusual at the toss. I had to order for the re-toss. It was unusual because it has been a practice by the home team captain to show the two sides of a coin to the visiting captain at the toss ceremony and the captain calls either head or tail. I don’t know what prompted the Pakistani skipper to say something like ‘bird’.”

To Malik’s horror, Zimbabwe won the toss the second time around and chose to bat, a decision that left Pakistan fuming. It perhaps sparked their initial spell in the morning session, reducing Zimbabwe to 42-3, but a friendly pitch allowed them to rebuild.

The Flower brothers made a double century stand with opener Grant Flower batting through the innings for 201 not out, while Grant Whitall also contributed a century. Zimbabwe made a whopping 544-4 before declaring the innings.

Pakistan seemed to be in slumber mode by then and Zimbabwe bowled them out for 322 and enforced the follow-on. Pakistan had no hope of salvaging the Test in the second innings after a sensational opening spell from David Brain reduced them to 35-5. Inzamam-ul-Haq’s cameo gave them some sort of respectability, but Zimbabwe cruised to a thumping win by an innings and 64 runs.

If only Malik had called head, rather than bird, it could all have been so different.

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