June 6, 2003

Johnson takes six as Zimbabwe face heavy defeat

Close Zimbabwe 94 (Johnson 6 for 33) and 41 for 1 trail England 416 by 281 runs

Dream start: Richard Johnson celebrates his first wicket with his third ball ... and it only got better

Before this Test, Nasser Hussain warned his team-mates not to expect a repeat of their easy win in the first match at Lord's. He was right - so far this Test has been even easier. Zimbabwe gave more ammunition (if any were needed) to those who argue that they are the worst side to tour England on another humiliating day for them in the second npower Test at Chester-le-Street. In under two sessions they lost 11 wickets, and were again forced to follow on.

But Zimbabwe's ineptness must not take anything away from a dream debut by Richard Johnson, who took 6 for 33 in a magnificent display of swing bowling. Johnson overshadowed James Anderson, the previous new sensation, and Steve Harmison, the local hero, as he took two wickets - Mark Vermeulen and Stuart Carlisle both lbw - with his third and fourth balls in Test cricket. Grant Flower denied him what would have been an extraordinary hat-trick.

Johnson had to wait until his fifth over for his third scalp, Sean Ervine (0) nicking him to the wicketkeeper Alec Stewart (23 for 5). And when Travis Friend played around a straight one to give Johnson his third lbw (31 for 6), he was on the verge of becoming the latest England bowler to take five wickets on debut since ... James Anderson a fortnight ago. And with a bit of help from Darrell Hair, Johnson claimed that fateful fifth when Heath Streak offered no stroke to a lavish inswinger (35 for 7). It was a dubious decision from Hair, but Johnson wasn't too bothered about the technicalities.

Tatenda Taibu, the only batsman to roll his sleeves up against the swinging ball, demonstrated the same technique and fight he showed in the first Test. But when he too became an lbw victim to Johnson, another milestone was in his sight: Dominic Cork's 7 for 43 against West Indies at Lord's in 1995. With one wicket left in the innings, it was a toss-up between himself and Harmison on who would get it, but it went Harmison's way when he trapped Ray Price for another lbw as Zimbabwe crumbled to a dismal 94 all out in just over 32 overs.

Johnson had earlier made his mark with the bat as well. He joined an exclusive list, including the likes of David Gower, when he hit Andy Blignaut for four first ball, and that set the tone for a cameo 24 off 14 balls. His innings included four fours and a steepling six off Price, but more importantly, along with Ashley Giles, he spoiled Zimbabwe's good early work after they had removed Alec Stewart and Anthony McGrath in a controlled display of bowling.

Stewart added only one run to his overnight score before he fell leg-before to Streak. That wicket ended a sixth-wicket partnership of 149 between Stewart and McGrath - the joint-highest for any wicket against Zimbabwe - and also put the brakes on England's progress. McGrath continued to play the tight bowling with control, but his patience began to wear thin, and he fell 20 short of a maiden Test century when he edged Blignaut to Taibu trying to force the pace.

Giles continued to frustrate Zimbabe with some bracing boundaries as he clubbed his way to 50, his second consecutive Test half-century, and he guided England to a dominating total of 416.

Zimbabwe made a better fist of things second time round, only losing the one wicket of Vermeulen for a pair, as they closed on 41 for 1. But the day belonged to Johnson.

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