England in fine form for final showdown
Unsuccessful runs end Zimbabwe's run of success
Photo © CricInfo
England's capability and confidence has surfaced so rapidly with their progress in this limited-overs series. Their third victory on the trot came from yet another thoroughly efficient all-round performance which must put them in good stead for the final showdown this weekend. It should also have given them a bit of psychological advantage.
But while that may possibly be so, Zimbabwe, regardless of this defeat, are a side that have, in limited-overs cricket, performed against all odds and their record against England stood at seven victories each, until the match today. Their never-say-die spirit was much in evidence only two days ago against West Indies when, facing a daunting total of 287, they achieved victory by six wickets after losing nearly half the side for 104.
Entertainment with competitive edge
This match may well have been regarded by many as only a dress rehersal for the final of the NatWest Series on Saturday but it, nevertheless, provided much entertainment, bringing joy to an excellent crowd of thirteen thousand.
Despite it being a ' dead ' match in terms of qualification for the final, it retained the competitive edge. After all, the little matter of ten thousand pounds in prize money for the winners was still in the minds of both sides.
The day, however, belonged to England. Having decided to make first use of a good track, they showed the batting form that they seemed to have settled into and which has taken them from strength to strength in this competition.
Zimbabwe defiant successful run ended by unsuccessful runs
The competitiveness of Zimbabwe again came to the fore today. They had 263 runs to aim for, for victory and having reached 87 for one they lost six wickets for 46. But despite that the fight went on. Neil Johnson and Alistair Campbell both hit half-centuries and a defiant innings of 45 from 52 balls late in the order from Heath Streak carried Zimbabwe to 210 for nine.
Zimbabwe had the misfortune seeing two of the leading batsmen, Murray Goodwin and Grant Flower being run out. Had that not been so, this game would have undoubtedly been a much closer affair.
Earlier, in the England innings, Alec Stewart was outstanding. Having relinquished his duties as acting captain, with a fit Nasser Hussain returning to the side, Stewart, who did an admirable job in Hussain's absence, put his mind to the immediate task of opening the batting and produced a splendid innings.
It was around him that the England innings was built and in doing so they reached their highest total in limited overs cricket against Zimbabwe. Man-of-the-match Stewart led the way in England's batting, reaching his first hundred in one-dayers since hitting 116 against India in Sharjah two-and-a half years ago.
Stewart - vital to England's cause
His innings today was, indeed, vital to the England cause and was a product more of application than enterprise. He batted as the situation required. Having got off to a reasonable start with 41 before the first wicket fell, England then lost two wickets on 85. Stewart then helped to steady the innings, first in partnership with Graham Thorpe he added 81 and then with Nasser Hussain he put on 52. It was his second consecutive big innings, having hit an unbeaten 74 against West Indies last Saturday.
Having made a recovery, Hussain contributing 34 from 37 balls England added further quick runs. Craig White's was a brief and breezy knock. He hit a straight six and then sent the next ball over the long-off boundary. That over from Grant Flower conceded seventeen runs and White departed soon after with 21 from only eleven balls.
Woolmer quips - My investment is well spent
Former England and Kent all-rounder and one of the most successful coaches of Warwickshire, Bob Woolmer gave his views on this series: "It's nice to see that NatWest are doing something good with the money that I invest with them," he said jokingly.
He then added: "I think it is wonderful that they have taken on the mantle for this. I think English cricket should have done this a lot earlier so it's nice to see NatWest and ECB are making it happen. The trend for this form of cricket is many years old in some places, England have now started it and I'm sure it will grow with the spectators as they get used to it."
Even though there was a ban imposed by the Council on music because of complaints for the noise by the local residents the spectators seemed to enjoy the day thoroughly.
An evening's entertainment
Woolmer said: "The big thing about this for the crowd is to make an evening out of this. But what you need is good weather which England hasn't had. I don't think you need to start too early in the season, I think floodlit cricket should start in the middle of July. Earlier in the season you get quite often the cold, winterish type days like we saw this season so it's difficult to come and watch."
He finally added: "All the fun stuff that you get with this cricket has worked in other countries in creating the public's interest so I can't see why it shouldn't work here, I think it will."