England cruise to the clean sweep
England 261 for 6 (Vaughan 90*, G Jones 80) beat Zimbabwe 187 (Masakadza 66, Gough 4-34, Bell 3-9) by 74 runs, and won the series 4-0
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England completed a whitewash with an ultimately simple 74-run demolition of Zimbabwe at Bulawayo. It wasn't all plain sailing, though, as it needed a superb sixth-wicket stand of 150 between Michael Vaughan and Geraint Jones to pull them round from a tricky position. Zimbabwe never really recovered after an early clatter of wickets, inspired by Darren Gough's triple strike.
It was Zimbabwe's 17th straight one-day defeat since the calamitous dispute which cost them around a dozen of their best players earlier this year. And it was also England's 12th consecutive victory on Zimbabwean soil, following the home side's surprise hat-trick in their first three matches, on the fractious 1996-97 tour.
England were struggling at 104 for 5 when Vaughan and Jones began their rescue act. Both made their highest one-day scores, and their partnership eclipsed England's sixth-wicket record, established just last Wednesday by Jones and Kevin Pietersen, with 120 in the second match at Harare. It was sensible stuff: Vaughan didn't hit a single boundary until he sped past 50 by clonking Mluleki Nkala into the practice nets past wide long-on. Another six followed, off the expensive Elton Chigumbura, and he picked up a couple of fours too as the accelerator was well and truly floored.
Jones, the eventual Man of the Match, played another finely judged knock, nudging singles at first as England rebuilt, and then improvising cannily. He shimmied down the track and cracked Mluleki Nkala straight for four, then sashayed across his stumps, dropped on one knee, and lifted Tinashe Panyangara over the man at short fine leg for another boundary. He also collected two sixes as the Zimbabwean bowlers wilted again in the line of fire.
It was a different story in mid-innings. First, a tight opening spell and then the contrasting offspin of Stuart Matsikenyeri and Prosper Utseya slowed England down. There was no repeat of yesterday's supercharged start, but Ian Bell and Matt Prior - making his one-day debut in place of yesterday's hero Vikram Solanki - laid a solid foundation. They put on 55 before Bell, after some easy-on-the-eye drives, skyed the impressive Eddie Rainsford to mid-on. Prior's promising first innings ended at 35, with six fours, when he punched Rainsford uppishly to short midwicket (71 for 2). Rainsford, in his first match of this series, bowled his ten overs off the reel, and though his last one leaked ten runs he still finished with the tidy figures of 2 for 29.
Matsikenyeri took over at the Airport End, and removed Andrew Strauss with his third ball, as he clipped to mid-on where Chigumbura tumbled forward and held on. Two balls later Pietersen top-edged an attempted sweep, and Nkala plunged for the catch at short fine leg (94 for 4). Then Paul Collingwood, responding to Vaughan's call for a quick single to backward point, was run out, an inch or two short when the ubiquitous Matsikenyeri's throw hit the stumps (104 for 5).
A period of consolidation followed - there were only 41 runs in the next ten overs - but England were anxious not to lose further wickets before the final push. They didn't, although Jones was out in the last over, well caught by Dion Ebrahim on the square-leg boundary.
Zimbabwe's task already looked a stiff one on a pitch not quite as quick as the one served up for yesterday's match. And Gough, recalled for this game, soon had them in trouble. In his second over Brendan Taylor pushed firm-footedly at an awayswinger and nicked it through to Jones, then two balls later Ebrahim was beaten for pace and trapped in front (8 for 2).
And in Gough's fourth over Matsikenyeri, who had just got going after being becalmed for 15 balls on 1 - which included a sharp chance to Pietersen at cover - flashed at a wider one after being shaken up by a bouncer, and edged to Jones for 10 (22 for 3).
Gough took a break with 3 for 26 from six overs - he had some trouble controlling the ball, and had sent down seven wides - but his replacement, Simon Jones, struck with his first ball. Mark Vermeulen, another whose foot movement is limited, pinged a cut straight to Collingwood at backward point, and Zimbabwe were tottering at 43 for 4.
Hamilton Masakadza and Tatenda Taibu dug in to give Zimbabwe some hope, but the need to preserve wickets meant that progress was slow, and the required run rate rose relentlessly. Masakadza rotated the strike well enough, and helped the cause by collecting three successive fours off Jones on his way to his first one-day fifty. Taibu, though, was content to defend or deflect, and his 23 occupied 57 balls before he finally lost concentration and skyed Collingwood to a running Prior at deep midwicket.
Masakadza continued to a polished 66, with eight fours, before he went too far across to Collingwood and was bowled behind his body as he attempted an ambitious aerial sweep. That was more or less the end, although the closing stages were enlivened by some swishing from Chigumbura, who slogged two sixes, a fine running catch by Pietersen to provide Gough with a fourth wicket, and three cheap scalps for Bell's military medium-pacers.
And so, the tour no-one wanted has ended with the scoreline everyone expected.
Steven Lynch is editor of Cricinfo.