July 8, 2000

Strang brings Zimbabwe back into game

NatWest Series, The Oval, Interval: England 207 all out (50 overs) v Zimbabwe

Rain - good change bowler

A combination of the second break for rain and the rejuvenated leg-spin of Paul Strang turned the England innings on its head when the team had built such a fine foundation to their innings. The middle order, instead of launching an assault that could have taken the home side close to 300, collapsed in familiar fashion as Zimbabwe commendably pulled themselves right back into the game.

NatWest Series

England lost two wickets in the first two overs after the 30-minute break. Paul Strang, tossing the ball up and looking a much better bowler than he had in the World Cup last year, struck again, as without addition to the score of 150 Maynard swung across the line at Paul Strang and was bowled by a fine leg-break for 3. Flintoff (2) quickly followed him, lofting brother Bryan straight down the throat of mid-off Whittall, and England had subsided to 153 for five.

Weather holds whip-hand

Paul Strang continued to tantalize, as Ealham almost hit a return catch and Thorpe skied a hit into vacant territory on the leg side. The two tried to regain the impetus lost by that flurry of wickets, and were just beginning to look settled when Thorpe (12) checked a drive at Paul and spooned a simple return catch; England 183 for six. Zimbabwe continued to rely on spinners after Strang had finished his spell, and Croft (5) holed out to Whittall at deepish extra cover off Viljoen; 191 for seven.

Caddick (2) was next to go, swinging over a ball from Grant Flower to be bowled leg stump; 197 for eight, in the 48th over. Gough got off the mark when Brent missed a difficult return catch, and a thick edge from Croft brought up the 200. Grant Flower, slow left-arm, bowled the last over and dismissed Ealham, swinging a full toss straight to Whittall at deep midwicket for 32; 206 for nine. Gough (3 not out) took a single before Mullally emulated Ealham, Whittall's catch being much more difficult this time, and England were dismissed for 207.

It was a most disappointing score after being so well placed when the rain struck for the second time, and the Zimbabweans astutely played on the received English weakness against flighted spin. Paul Strang, who began the collapse, took three wickets for 36 runs, Grant Flower carved three for 9 out of the tail, while the left-arm spin of Viljoen accounted for two more wickets. Zimbabwe brought themselves right back into the match, but they are still far from secure chasing totals and there could well be a tight finish - should the weather permit it. The match remains wide open.