July 18, 2000

Nasser Hussain comes back - and so does the sun

NatWest Series

The eighth NatWest Series match, between England and Zimbabwe at Edgbaston, has been unexpectedly invaded by a quite unexpected element: the sun. The Birmingham crowd have turned out in their shirtsleeves - and no doubt less later on - while Zimbabwe at least will feel more at home than they have done for most of their tour.

The heat has had the effect of opening cracks on the pitch, which is reported to be rather spongy and less favourable for batting than the excellent surfaces at Riverside. Nasser Hussain won what is thought to be a good toss to win, and decided to bat.

Every incentive to win

The result of this match will have no effect on Saturday's final, but both sides have much incentive to win. If England win both of their last two matches they will finish ahead of Zimbabwe in the league table, while Zimbabwe will be keen to gain a psychological edge over England ahead of the final. Similarly today's result cannot be seen as any indication of the result of the final, as both teams are inconsistent, as proven by their previous encounters in this tournament. Zimbabwe won the first easily, while England turned the tables even more decisively second time round. The two meetings of the teams this week are likely to illustrate yet again 'the glorious uncertainty of cricket'.

Nasser Hussain returns for England in place of Matthew Maynard, while Zimbabwe have brought in Paul Strang and Pommie Mbangwa for John Rennie and Bryan Strang. The teams are as follows:

England: Marcus Trescothick, Alec Stewart, Graeme Hick, Graham Thorpe, Nasser Hussain (capt), Andy Flintoff, Craig White, Mark Ealham, Andy Caddick, Darren Gough, Alan Mullally.

Zimbabwe: Neil Johnson, Guy Whittall, Murray Goodwin, Alistair Campbell, Andy Flower (capt), Grant Flower, Stuart Carlisle, Dirk Viljoen, Heath Streak, Paul Strang, Pommie Mbangwa.