Zimbabwe's clear-cut victory
Photo © CricInfo
NatWest Series, The Oval: England (207 all out off 50 overs) lost to Zimbabwe (210 for five off 48.2 overs) by five wickets.
Zimbabwe, NatWest Series outsiders, pulled off another surprise victory, this time by five wickets over England at The Oval.
Marcus Trescothick dominated the stage early in the match with a most impressive debut innings of 79, but England declined from 136 for one to 207 all out. It was leg-spinner Paul Strang who began the collapse after an absence from international cricket of almost a year due to injury. Then, after Zimbabwe were reeling at 35 for three, Alistair Campbell (80), the Man of the Match, and Andy Flower (61) shared a crucial partnership of 123 to set up the position for another creditable and clear-cut victory.
Trescothick impresses on debut
The left-handed debutant Trescothick played a most impressive innings of 79 as England ran to 150 for three at a scoring rate of almost five an over against Zimbabwe in their NatWest Series match against Zimbabwe at The Oval. He began in partnership with Stewart, recording the first boundary of the innings when he picked up a short ball from Johnson high over midwicket, almost for six. His no-nonsense firm driving, especially on the off side, and more delicate glances radiated confident and positive play right from the start. He lost Stewart at 30, trapped palpably lbw by the same bowler for 12, trying to drive a very straight ball slightly across the line.
England's fifty came up in the 13th over, but almost immediately the rain arrived, quite heavily. The players left the field with England 52 for one (Trescothick 31, Hick 7). To modify the old saying, it was nice weather for Duckworth-Lewis, but in the event no overs were lost for this interruption.
Narrow Run-out Escape
Play recommenced at 12.20, the pitch having got slightly damp before the covers could be applied. Hick greeted Brent, replacing Strang, with a powerful back-foot drive to the cover boundary, while Trescothick hit him high over his head in his next over for six. Trescothick had a narrow escape just after the hundred came up in the 23rd over; backing up too far as Hick played into the covers, he was stranded in mid-pitch, only for the fielder to panic and return the ball far too high. Soon afterwards he turned Brent on the leg side to record a well-earned fifty off 73 balls.
Immediately afterwards he had another slice of luck, a run-out appeal going for a quick single being rejected by umpire Shepherd without referral to the third umpire - but the replay appeared to show a dismissal by the narrowest of margins. The century partnership came up off only 108 balls, Hick reached his fifty off 57 balls, and the Zimbabwean fielding, hitherto excellent, began to slide once or twice. But then Hick, still on 50, tried to turn Paul Strang to leg, only to give Grant Flower a catch at extra cover off the leading edge. England were 136 for two.
Soon afterwards Trescothick's fine innings came to an end as he swung Paul Strang high to the deep square leg boundary for Campbell to take the catch. It was the signal for more rain to arrive, and again the players were forced to leave the field.
Rain is 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 build 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.
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.
Paul Strang continued to tantalise, 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 perceived 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.
Zimbabwe resistance flowers in poor light
After losing three wickets, one of them controversially, for 35 runs in pursuit of England's total of 207, Zimbabwe appeared to be as good as buried. Then came a determined fighting partnership between present and past captains, Andy Flower and Alistair Campbell, who fought back against some fine bowling and poor light to keep their team in the match with 20 overs still to be bowled.
England struck back with the third ball of the Zimbabwe innings, as without a run on the board their key batsman Johnson drove uppishly at Caddick and Maynard at backward point juggled and then held the vital low catch.
Caddick and Gough gave Goodwin and Wishart a torrid time with some superb bowling as they tried to dig in, but the total was only 9 when Wishart (2) stepped across his stumps and was adjudged lbw by umpire Shepherd, to a delivery that the camera showed to be going down leg side. Campbell came in but the light was clearly deteriorating, and the batsmen earned the ire of the crowd by opting to go off with the score on 12 for two (Goodwin 5, Campbell 3). However within two minutes it was raining again.
Gough and Caddick off-line
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About ten minutes were lost before play restarted, in light that was not noticeably any better. Gough and Caddick continued their assault, but bowled enough deliveries off-line now to allow the batsmen to keep the score ticking over. Campbell, despite edging his first ball just short of slip, soon began to show glimpses of his true ability, despite the increasing gloom; streetlights and car headlights were beginning to come on.
Ealham came on to bowl and with his second ball dismissed Goodwin lbw for 11, playing outside a ball that moved back to him, and Zimbabwe were 35 for three. Andy Flower and Campbell got their heads down and fought back, this time refusing to go off when offered the light and winning the gratitude of the crowd. They ran well between wickets and chose their strokes well in what was clearly an uphill battle. Ealham and Mullally were unable to bowl quite straight enough and many of their runs came from nudges and dabs to fine leg and third man, with Andy playing the reverse sweep to good effect.
The fifty partnership came up off 88 balls in the 26th over, but Zimbabwe were still slightly behind on Duckworth-Lewis. In the 3oth over they took the lead for the first time to set up the prospect of a superb finish to this match.
Zimbabwe move towards the light
Campbell reached his first one-day fifty for many a long moon when he pulled Mullally powerfully over midwicket for four. The light was improving again and Zimbabwe were now beginning to move ahead - but always in the knowledge that the loss of one more wicket would swing the balance right back towards England. Gough and Caddick returned, but were unable to test these well-set batsmen as they had at the start of the innings.
On 40 Flower did offer a difficult chance to extra cover, a powerful drive that Trescothick leapt for but could do no more than parry one-handed. Then came the century partnership, off 151 balls. It finally came to an end when Campbell was beaten through the gate by Croft and trapped lbw for 80, a fine knock and his first fifty in international cricket for more than 50 innings. Zimbabwe were 158 for four and, given the fragile nature of their batting, the match was in the balance again.
Creditable and clear-cut victory
Andy Flower was soon to his fifty, off 72 balls, while his brother Grant caused surprise by stepping down the pitch, with only a single to his credit, and lofting Croft for a straight six. The pair placed the ball skilfully and ran well between wickets, an art they developed when opening the batting together several years back, and the English faces became increasingly grim. A lofted on-drive from Grant off Mullally brought up the 200 but, with just two runs needed, Andy drove over a yorker from Mullally to be bowled for 61. Guy Whittall, though, drove his first ball straight for four and Zimbabwe were through to another creditable and clear-cut victory, with ten balls to spare.