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December 1, 2004
England 263 for 6 (Pietersen 77*, Jones 66, Panyangara 3-61) beat Zimbabwe 102 (Taibu 32, Wharf 4-24, Collingwood 3-16) by 161 runs, and lead series 2-0
Although both their batsmen and bowlers started hesitantly, England strolled to an ultimately simple 161-run victory in the second one-day international at Harare. They bundled Zimbabwe out for a paltry 102 after running up an imposing total of 263 for 6, which owed much to a record sixth-wicket stand between Kevin Pietersen and Geraint Jones, both of whom made their maiden one-day fifties. England now lead the four-match series 2-0.
Zimbabwe's openers started brightly, reaching 40 without loss in the tenth over, but they then lost four quick wickets, and never recovered. The demolition men who took advantage of a succession of poorly judged shots were the unlikely destroyers Alex Wharf, who grabbed three of those early wickets and finished with 4 for 24, and Paul Collingwood, whose darting seamers proved too much for the creasebound Zimbabwean batsmen. He took 3 for 16 in ten miserly overs.
But it was Pietersen who lifted the Man of the Match award, which comes with an impressive-sounding cheque for three million Zimbabwe dollars (sadly for him, roaring inflation means that's only about £300). After an edgy start against the spinners, when a tendency to plant the front foot across the crease left him with nowhere to go, and a lucky escape at 4 when Elton Chigumbura's wild return scuppered a dead-cert run-out, Pietersen showed just why he has been fast-tracked into this England side. He settled his nerves by walloping Gavin Ewing for six out of the ground over wide long-on, and followed that with an effortless pick-up over the square-leg fence when Christopher Mpofu strayed down leg. As the final assault began a third six, off Brendan Taylor's optimistic offspin, thundered high into the stand behind the bowler.
Pietersen finished with 77 from 76 balls in only his second ODI, and could yet force himself into the reckoning for the one-dayers at the end of England's forthcoming tour of his native South Africa.
But even Pietersen was outpaced by the bustling Jones, who slog-swept judiciously on his way to 66 from only 46 balls. He smacked two sixes of his own, one off Ewing that was expertly caught low down by a man in the stand at midwicket, and another that zoomed over the hospitality tents at wide long-on.
From a position of some uncertainty at 121 for 5 when Collingwood departed for 7, Pietersen and Jones piled on 120, a new sixth-wicket record for England in ODIs, beating the 112 of Neil Fairbrother and Adam Hollioake against South Africa at Dhaka in 1998-99.
It was a different story early on, as first Zimbabwe's young new-ball pair and then their assortment of offspinners restricted the top order well. Mpofu and Tinashe Panyangara, both just 19, kept the ball up, teasing outside off, and England managed only 55 for 2 in the first 15 overs before the field restrictions were relaxed. Panyangara, who suffered later and finished with 3 for 61, took the early wickets of Ian Bell - squirting to point the ball after missing a perfect awayswinger - and Michael Vaughan, who was squared up by one that pitched on middle and straightened (30 for 2).
Vikram Solanki, reining in his natural instinct to attack, and Andrew Strauss shared a calming stand of 64 before both fell in quick succession. Solanki had grafted to 42 when he shimmied down the track to the flattish offspin of Prosper Utseya. The ball turned past him - in fact it was called a wide - but Solanki couldn't get back before Tatenda Taibu took the ball up near his armpit and swept off the bails (94 for 3).
At the other end Strauss chipped and charged solidly to 33, but then also fell foul of the offspin. This time it was Ewing, a bushy-haired 23-year-old making his one-day debut. His first ball was a wide, but as he settled, he started turning the ball. When a shorter one looped down Strauss leant back to cut, but the ball kept coming on to him and rattled the top of middle and leg (103 for 4).
Chasing more than they expected, Zimbabwe started brightly enough, but Stuart Matsikenyeri became bogged down as Vaughan packed the point area and stifled his favourite cuts. Unable to pierce the field, a frustrated Matsikenyeri tried to pull James Anderson, but only lobbed it straight to mid-on (40 for 1). It was a rare shaft of light for Anderson, who was sporting a newly-shaven head: he otherwise drifted down leg too often, and was responsible for nine of England's dozen wides.
The introduction of the equally unhirsute Wharf paid instant dividends, as he persuaded Brendan Taylor to leg-glance straight to Jones. The slide worsened: it became three wickets in seven balls when Mark Vermeulen guided his second ball firmly into the covers, where Pietersen clung on (42 for 3). Wharf struck a third time when he threaded one through Hamilton Masakadza's rather lazy defensive stroke (53 for 4).
In came Taibu to a familiar tale - clumps of wickets have been a feature of his inexperienced side's batting. Chigumbura, who made a feisty 52 in the first match, couldn't manage a repeat performance, popping an attempted pull back to Collingwood after collecting four singles. Taibu held up an end for a while, top-scoring with 32 before chipping a return catch to Ashley Giles, and that was about it. Taibu's was the first of three wickets to go down at 97, and although the last pair Utseya and Mpofu frustrated the bowlers for nearly nine overs - and inched the score past 100 - the end wasn't long delayed.
Steven Lynch is editor of Cricinfo.
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