July 7, 2000

Colour, Music, Light - Southern Hemisphere cricket comes to England

The crowd may have been seventy thousand less for a day-nighter, but the colour, the music and the lights ensured that in atmosphere, the little ground did not lack much behind the imposing MCG, Down Under.

NatWest Series

Just how captivating an event such as this can be was shown by the number of women and teenagers in the crowd.

Women fans enjoy atmosphere

Karen Smithies
Karen Smithies
Photo © Rebecca Lewis

It was interesting talking to Karen Smithies, former England Women's team captain who said:" Looking at Bristol's crowd for this match, it could be near enough eight thousand and England are not even playing. They are enjoying West Indies play Zimbabwe. There are a lot of women in the crowd, they like the music, the atmosphere and the weather has played it's part too."

She went on to say: " This is adding to the full aspect of one-day cricket. You will get more and more people through the turnstiles. We can have this in women's cricket as well, I have just come from Australia and New Zealand and they have the day-night games for women with the music and the whole razmatazz. And we got a bigger crowd than we had few years ago."

A wonderfully mixed crowd, with no shortage of supporters for either team, were treated to a most entertaining batting display by both sides.

Man of the match, Neil Johnson, with a magnificent innings of 95 led Zimbabwe to victory. It was good to see a player of his class get back into form. He had a lean patch during the recent two Tests against England but it doesn't take long for a batsman of his ability to get back into stride.

On 90 for 3, Zimbabwe still had work to do but two partnership that Johnson shared with the Flower brothers saw them home. First he put on sixty with the captain Andy Flower, who batted with great confidence for his 42 and then Grant with 26 from 25 balls, helped put on 73 to see them home by six wickets with as many as five overs to spare.

Johnson: "It all became quite nice"

Neil Johnson
Neil Johnson
Photo © CricInfo

Johnson said at the end of the match: " I thought if I was there till the end of the game I'll give the team a chance to win the game. Once I got to fifty I thought of middling a few and it all became quite nice."

He went on to say about his shot of the innings, a pull through mid-wicket: " They bumped me quite a bit so catching one in the middle of the bat like that was pretty good feeling."

West Indies decided to make first use of a slow, brownish wicket and got of to an excellent start but on 101 for 1, Chris Gayle ran himself out with 41 and departed with the short burst of music which greeted every fall of wicket, every boundary and the in coming batsman.

Lara - a musical interlude

Enter Brian Lara with the accompaniment of B 52s, 'Love Shack'. The prince of batsmen, perhaps, spurred on by the maestro's selections, got down to business straight away. He drove Guy Whittall to mid off for four and three balls later drove elegantly to the extra-cover boundary.

Meanwhile, Wavell Hinds' straight six off Gary Brent had brought the biggest cheer from the crowd who were basking in the sunshine. Even the weather had decided to help in the carnival atmosphere of the day.

Hinds' eventually fell to a catch, going for another big hit but he had by then reached a half-century with half his runs coming from boundaries as was the case with Lara who hit six boundaries and a six in his brilliant 63-ball innings of sixty.

Considering that Zimbabwe were missing three of their front line bowlers, West Indies should have had more from their full quota of overs than 232. They would have been hard pressed to reach even that if it wasn't for a belligerent 36 from only 23 balls from Ricardo Powell.

Untimely streak -and it wasn't Heath

But the West Indies innings had been entertaining enough, although, that can't be said of the streaker who danced on to the ground, not in time to the music, I might add, and was promptly whisked away.

A nod from the good Doctor

While the game turned out to be a comfortable victory for Zimbabwe, it was also, certainly, a victory for the day itself, with all the razzle and innovations. Who knows, W.G. might even have been looking down and nodding his approval of cricket moving on with the times.