Flower’s fine farewell to Essex fans

Grant Flower marked his final home appearance for Essex with a typical fighting innings that took his side one step closer to a Clydesdale Bank 40 semi-final place.

They beat Middlesex by seven wickets at Chelmsford to leapfrog Gloucestershire into second position in Group B after Flower teamed up with Ravi Bopara to compose a match-winning 114-runs partnership.

Bopara scored 68 in his final appearance ahead of his return to the England one-day squad while Flower was 81 not out and received a standing ovation from the Chelmsford faithful.

The 39-year-old had been offered the position of Second XI captain at the end of this season but has decided to return to Zimbabwe where he has been given the role of batting coach for the national team.

“I’ve decided to return to Zimbabwe, as things have improved out there although there are still a number of things that aren’t good. But I think the country is definitely on the up,” he said.

In the meantime, Flower is available to play for Essex for the remainder of the season during which time he is hoping for another Lord’s cup final appearance.

Two years ago, his ice-cool temperament was in evidence as he underpinned victory for Essex with 70 not out in the Friends Provident Trophy final against Kent.

“That match is an outstanding memory and, hopefully, we can get back to Lord’s this year in the CB40 competition,” he said following the Gloucestershire victory. “But just having been here at Essex for six years has been terrific.

“I was lucky enough to come here from Zimbabwe and Essex gave me an opportunity and I’ve tried to make the most of it. It’s been a great time.”

Flower made 67 Test appearances for Zimbabwe, during which he scored 3,457 runs including six centuries, and also played in 219 ODIs amassing 6,536 runs, again including six centuries. Additionally, he tok 25 Test wickets and 104 ODI victims with his slow left-armers.

He retired from international cricket in 2004, whereupon he linked up with brother Andy once more, this time at Essex.

Despite the demands of the modern-game and a long career, the 39-year-old carries his years well. He insists there is no secret formula, adding: “It’s all about sacrifices and keeping fit to do the job.

“I’ve made sacrifices lifestyle-wise by just trying to do the right things such as doing the gym and getting the diet right. I think that’s probably the most important reason I’ve stayed in good shape.”

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