July 18, 2000

Cracking start by England - Stewart continues where he left off

NatWest Series

Edgbaston, 30 overs: England 138 for three (Stewart 57, Thorpe 23)

England got off to a cracking start as they batted on winning the toss in the NatWest Series match against Zimbabwe at Edgbaston, Birmingham. At one stage they were 85 for one in the 17th over, taking advantage of several missed chances in the field. Although Zimbabwe struck back, Graham Thorpe settled into a sound partnership with Alec Stewart, who carried on where he left off at Riverside with another valuable fifty.

Runs flow from the "off"

The England innings almost began with a run-out, as Trescothick pushed a risky single off Streak to mid-off, and had the throw hit the stumps he would have had to carry on running as far as the pavilion. Johnson bowled an erratic opening over, Stewart helping himself to two leg-side fours, and England were away to a flying start. Streak also found difficulty in controlling the white ball, and Trescothick enjoyed some of his favourite extra-cover drives off both bowlers, not to mention a pull for six off Johnson. 31 runs came off the first four overs, 20 of them off Johnson's two.

This time, though, it was to be a case of short and sweet for Trescothick, 20 off 19 balls; trying to force Streak off the back foot, he dragged the ball on to his stumps via the inside edge; England 41 for one. The fifty came up in the ninth over, as Stewart snicked a possible catch between keeper and slip, both of whom politely left it to the other. In the next over Flintoff snicked Mbangwa straight to slip, only for the chance to go down; one over later Flintoff provided an action replay of the Stewart miss, with keeper and slip again leaving a potential catch to the other, another four resulting.

Drinks break halts run rampage

The batsmen responded to this generosity by going on the rampage against mediocre bowling, with the drive particularly in evidence. Immediately after the drinks break, though, Flintoff (24) flashed at the restored Johnson and was caught at the wicket; England 85 for two in the 17th over. Then Hick fell lbw second ball, beaten by a delivery that moved back off the pitch, a good decision by umpire Mervyn Kitchen. Zimbabwe had struck back just as it looked as if the game was being taken out of their reach.

England had to regroup as Thorpe joined Stewart, and the hundred came up in the 21st over. They relied mainly on good placement of the ball and running ones and twos. Stewart reached a determined fifty off 84 balls and was doing a fine job as the backbone of the innings.