July 11, 2000

Zimbabwe are transformed

Colin Cowdrey
Colin Cowdrey - Kent's hero presented the awards
Photo © Stamp Publicity

and much happier allround

Far from resembling the dejected side they were after their recent Test series with England, Zimbabwe now exude confidence in their play and almost a swagger in their demeanour as they dominate the NatWest Series.

NatWest Series

It was a much happier team that returned to Canterbury two months after their innings defeat by Kent. Then they had much on their on minds, a pay dispute with their board - which has now been negotiated - and perhaps, more importantly, the dangerous political situation at home which, also, appears to have calmed after the elections.

While England and Zimbabwe are in the middle of a Test series, which must, at least, be in the back of their minds during this intervention from limited-overs cricket, Zimbabwe are totally focused on just the one goal. That in itself must be an advantage, it must be said, without taking anything away from their splendid performance in this one-day tournament.

Johnson's career best

Neil Johnson, has hit the form that served him and his country so well in the World Cup a year ago. Following his unbeaten 95 last week in the opening game of the series, he hit another half-century today before being run out.

By then he had given his side a fine start with a new opening partner, Guy Whittall who replaced Craig Wishart and played a most prominent role in Zimbabwe's total of 256 for four after being put in to bat.

His 83 was the top score of the innings and it also equalled the highest score of his one-day career which he had reached in October 1997 against Kenya in Nairobi. The 89-run opening stand had given an excellent foundation to Zimbabwe and later when Whittall teamed up with Alistair Campbell in another big partnership which was broken just four runs short of a century, the two had put the side well on the path of a winning total.

Campbell's unbeaten 77, scored at practically the rate of a run a ball, followed his 80 against England three days earlier.

Adventurous lower-order hitting

West Indies' batting presented a most inadequate response to a fairly substantial target that was set. Having lost six for 57, it was the adventurous batting of the lower order that boosted the total to 186 for eight.

Nixon McLean's half-century from 70 balls and a hard hitting 38 from only 31 balls from Franklyn Rose were the two noteable batting performances, although a slower 37 from Ridley Jacobs was also a help.

By virtue of this comfortable victory, by 70 runs, Zimbabwe are through to the final, making their remaining games of academic interest while England and West Indies must fight it out for the right to play Zimbabwe in the final.

Kent's "great opportunity"

Despite the near wintery conditions, grey skies, a cold wind and even a stoppage for rain, a cheerful Chief Executive of Kent County Cricket Ground, Paul Millman said: "We are thrilled to be included on the circuit for the one-day international matches. Even though we are not traditionally a Test match ground, it's great to have this opportunity. We have done our best to put on a good day and hopefully everybody has enjoyed the day.

"With more and more one-day internationals around the country, we are hoping that what we are demonstrating is that we can do it and that we will be able to do it in the future as well."

He added: "The important thing is that the game is being taken round the country so that all supporters of cricket, wherever they are in the country, will get a chance to see the best and I think we are on the map from that point of view.

Fantastic amount of good for local cricket

"We have a capacity of ten thousand and we are today just over six thousand although we haven't had the final count as yet. It is a Tuesday and a cold Tuesday, so that crowd isn't bad. But I must say for local cricket it has done a fantastic amount of good."

Finally, Millman commented on a team which he had seen earlier in the season on his home ground looking rather despondent. " Zimbabwe are transformed. The Kent side beat them by an innings and they looked very down. They have obviously had a chance to re-group, they look refreshed, they look hungry and it seems now it's the West Indies who look on the wrong end of morale."