Overview of Paul Strang
Paul Andrew Strang (born 28 July 1970 in Bulawayo) was a leg-spinning all-rounder who played in 24 Tests and 95 ODIs for Zimbabwe between 1994 and 2001. He played Test cricket alongside his brother, Bryan Strang; their father, Ronald Strang, was a first-class umpire and was TV umpire for two of Zimbabwe's Test matches in 1994/5.
He studied at the University of Cape Town, and toured Pakistan with the Zimbabwe side in 1993/4. He played his first Test in 1994, and became a professional cricketer in 1995. He was one of the leading wicket-takers in the 1996 Cricket World Cup in India, taking taking 12 wickets with a bowling average of 16, although the team was knocked out in the preliminary stage, beating Kenya (with Strang taking 5 wickets) but losing its other 4 matches.
His scored his only Test century in the 1st innings of the 1st Test against Pakistan at Sheikhupura in 1996-7, batting at #8, including a stand of 87 with his brother for the 9th wicket. He also took 5 wickets in Pakistan's 1st innings in the same match. Strang's achievement was overshadowed by a double century, 257 not out, scored by Wasim Akram, and the match was drawn.
Paul's promise led to his inclusion on the Zimbabwe tour of Pakistan in 1993/94. He was taken mainly for the experience and to help as a net bowler, the Zimbabwe batsmen needing the presence of a leg-spinner to practise against with Mushtaq Ahmed in the opposition. But he was still very inaccurate in those days, although steadily tightening up. When Steve Peall proved ineffective against the Sri Lankan tourists the following year, Paul made his Test debut in the final Test at Harare Sports Club. He took three wickets, but with indifferent balls; still, it was a start. He was not so fortunate when Pakistan toured, taking just one expensive wicket. But his promise as an attacking spinner was evident, and his gutsy batting and brilliant fielding helped to keep him in the side.
More hard labour for little reward was ahead of him, as he failed to take a wicket against the South Africans and only took three expensive Test wickets in New Zealand. He was also on the receiving end of a violent century from Chris Cairns. However, Paul is less affected than most by heavy punishment; he realises that the batsmen are giving him a chance and hopes to be able to exploit it.
Paul came to prominence on the international scene during the 1996 World Cup in the Indian subcontinent, where he was Zimbabwe's leading bowler. Taking 12 wickets at an average of 16, he finished top of the bowling averages for all teams for a bowler taking ten or more wickets. He began the tournament with 4/40 against the West Indies, and the highlight was 5/21 against Kenya, when he was Man of the Match. People worldwide suddenly sat up and took notice, helped by the fact that it was at this time that several promising leg-spinners were appearing in world cricket and a new one from Zimbabwe was also noted.
Paul's stature grew the following season, when Zimbabwe toured Sri Lanka and Pakistan. He found the pitches in Sri Lanka, prepared especially to suit the home spinners, very helpful, but he was faced by batsmen who had been brought up on them against quality spinners. In those circumstances his return of nine wickets in the only two significant innings was a good one. He also scored his first Test fifty as Zimbabwe finally learnt how to fight back, too late, in the Second Test.
Nobody expected, though, his rare achievement in the Sheikhapura Test against Pakistan. Zimbabwe were in trouble at 142 for six, although Grant Flower was still there, when Paul came to the wicket. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were for once unable to swing the ball as much as they would have liked, but Paul took full advantage and fought his way to his first career century, achieved with the last man at the crease. He then took five wickets when Pakistan batted, although his figures were mauled during the incredible innings of 257 not out by Wasim, which quite overshadowed Paul's feat in becoming only the 18th player in Test history to score a century and take five wickets in an innings in a Test match.
Paul's greatest qualities are his fighting spirit and his unselfish approach. He finds it difficult to remember details of his best performances, and the outstanding achievements lose most of their gloss if his team does not win the match. His century against Pakistan was his first in first-class cricket, but he cannot remember many details of his hundreds in minor cricket. His highest score in any match was an innings of about 150 for an Under-14 team at Falcon College; in adult cricket, he recorded a couple of league centuries while playing for Manicaland. On several occasions he has taken seven wickets in an innings in minor cricket, but not more - yet.
Paul has long had a reputation as one of the best fielders in the country, often seen in the covers or backward point area. He is at his best as a batsman when the pressure is on and runs are needed urgently, as he proved while scoring his Test century. As a bowler he has a wide repertoire - regular leg-breaks, googly, top-spinner and flipper - and his control has improved considerably during the last few seasons. However, a preponderance of one-day cricket has made him more of a defensive bowler, more accurate but no longer the attacking threatening bowler he used to be; that route was followed more by Adam Huckle. When they bowled together, he saw himself as doing more of a `holding job' while Huckle did the `attacking job'.
His match double of a century and five wickets in a Test innings is the major career highlight so far, and he took great pleasure in his 87-run partnership with his brother Bryan. There is no rivalry or jealousy between the brothers, who support and encourage each other to the hilt.
Paul played a prominent role in the Zimbabwe team during the England tour of 1996/97; in fact, he was used so frequently by his captain that he was in danger of becoming a stock bowler. His accuracy made it very difficult for the batsmen to attack him with success, and he was at times brought on and kept on to keep down the run rate. The English camp claimed that most of their batsmen could read him without too much trouble, but this appears to have been an exaggeration; Nick Knight, in particular, often failed to detect which way the ball was going. They had more respect for him than they would admit - and not for his bowling only, but also for his gritty innings and fielding. Paul could be stationed remarkably deep at backward point or in the covers, and the English batsmen had more sense than to risk a run to him.
The England tour was followed by the triangular series in South Africa, in which India also participated. Paul had a good series, and was sent in at number four on occasions to play a dashing unorthodox innings. He played an important part in Zimbabwe's first victory over India, scoring a vital 31 not out at number eight in a crisis. He had less success with the ball, but he clearly impressed the South African critics.
While he was in South Africa, he was contacted by the Kent County Cricket Club with an offer to become their overseas professional for the 1997 season, as their usual overseas star Carl Hooper was expected to be unavailable for much of the season with international commitments. Paul jumped at the chance, and had a most impressive season with Kent. He did not score as many runs as he would have liked, but on several occasions played vital innings for the county down the order. At a vital time when Kent were pushing towards the championship title, he took good wicket hauls which led to victories over Essex and Gloucestershire, although he found that on the whole, in a wet summer, the pitches did not suit his bowling.
The main value to his game, he thought, was the experience he gained in learning to develop the right mental attitudes over a long season and in learning to hold his end up with the bat when necessary, to bat over longer periods of time. He won many bouquets for his contribution to team spirit and his general positive attitude and enthusiasm, especially when coaching youngsters. Kent felt unable to re-engage him in the future, deciding they should keep faith with Hooper, but Nottinghamshire were very soon on to him and have signed him up for a two-year contact.
Paul was disappointed not to be more successful against the New Zealand tourists back in Zimbabwe in 1997/98. He did not feel jaded, as some people suggested, and he played an important part in the tour without turning in any outstanding performances. He had even more bowling to do than usual, much of it in partnership with Adam Huckle, who returned to Zimbabwe to take 16 wickets in the two Tests. Paul saw his job mainly to tie up an end while Huckle, the more attacking bowler, took wickets at the other end. The highlight of the tour for him was his bowling in the second one-day international at Harare Sports Club, when he bowled 10 superb overs at a cost of just 13 runs, which played a major part in Zimbabwe's victory.
He played two season of county cricket, as the overseas player for Kent in 1997 and for Nottinghamshire in 1998.
He played in the 1999 Cricket World Cup in England, where Zimbabwe beat Kenya, India and South Africa to qualify for the "Super Six" stage. He obtained his best Test bowling figures of 8-109 in the 1st innings against New Zealand at Bulawayo in 2000-1, although Zimbabwe lost the match by 7 wickets. This remains the best bowling figures recorded by a Zimbabwean in an innings in Test cricket (the best match figures belong to Adam Huckle). He only played in three further Tests, with his international career curtailed by a chronic injury to the muscles of his right hand in 2000