June 7, 2003

England complete a comfortable innings victory

England 416 (McGrath 81) beat Zimbabwe 94 (Johnson 6 for 33) and 253 (Harmison 4-55, Anderson 4-55) by an innings and 69 runs

Steve Harmison celebrates the wicket of Sean Ervine on his way to a Test-best 4 for 55

James Anderson and Steve Harmison picked up four wickets apiece, as England completed their second consecutive innings victory over Zimbabwe shortly before 4.45pm on the third day of the second npower Test at Chester-le-Street. Zimbabwe, led by Travis Friend, made a better fist of things in their second innings of 253, but they were always staring at a heavy defeat after yesterday's first-innings debacle.

For the first time in the series, England had to work hard for their wickets in a much more even contest. While Richard Johnson tried but failed to recapture his magic touch, Anderson again showed maturity beyond his years by rising to the challenge with 4 for 55. Harmison, who also took 4 for 55, too showed his worth as a strike bowler by stepping in to break two irritating partnerships, before wrapping things up with two wickets in consecutive overs.

Anderson got things going for England last night with the wicket of Mark Vermeulen, and he carried on the good work throughout the day, while Harmison delighted his home crowd with his pace and aggression. And just when Nasser Hussain wanted to finish things off, it was fitting that Harmison blasted out the last two wickets. He produced a snorter of a lifter to a helpess Ray Price, and started the celebrations with a spearing yorker to get rid of the last man Douglas Hondo.

However, even though it was another crushing win inside three days for England, today wasn't the easy ride many were expecting. Friend stood up to England with an aggressive and defiant 65 not out. He took his chances along the way, but it was just what Zimbabwe needed to restore some much-needed pride.

With Sean Ervine, Friend added 54 for the sixth wicket, and treated the crowd to some rare quality strokeplay. Ervine cracked a quickfire 36, including a straight six off Ashley Giles, and Friend took his lead. Although he didn't move his feet much, he drove the ball with equal ease off both the backand front-foot, and he fittingly brought up a well-deserved fifty with a glorious back-foot drive off Johnson, to whom he took a particular liking. For the first time in the day - and arguably, in the series - runs began to flow freely for Zimbabwe. But just when Hussain needed a wicket, Harmison stepped up to remove Ervine.

Ervine was undone by Harmison's extra pace when, trying to get his bat out the way of a high-bouncing ball outside off stump, he got a thick inside-edge which cannoned into his stumps (185 for 6). Ervine had scored 36, and it was a good effort considering Zimbabwe's position and disastrous start to the afternoon after all the hard work they put in during the morning session.

In the morning Dion Ebrahim had played sensibly, and with some determination, for a patient 55 before suffering another dubious lbw decision from Darrell Hair. With support from Stuart Carlisle (28), Ebrahim helped Zimbabwe to a respectable position at lunch, and the prospect of batting throughout the day looked a possibility.

But Grant Flower played on to James Anderson for 16 in the first over after lunch, and when Giles picked up Tatenda Taibu soon afterwards, the writing was well and truly on the wall. And after Ervine's and Friend's sprightly partnership ended, Zimbabwe's fortunes in this match were summed up shortly before tea by the dismissal of their captain, Heath Streak. Friend drilled a return catch to Steve Harmison , who spilled the chance and diverted the ball on the stumps at the non-strikers' end, with Streak way out of his crease (202 for 7). It just hasn't been their tour.

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