First hour likely to be crucial in NatWest Series Final
The unexpectedly cloudy weather at the start of the Lord's Test made it a good toss to win and, in line with the tendency of history to favour the big battalions, Nasser Hussain won it for England. He had no hesitation in putting England in to bat.
The pitch is a good one but conditions clearly favour swing bowling. Zimbabwe's batsmen will have their work cut out to handle England's top-quality seam bowling, and this may well make it a rather low-scoring match. The first hour will probably be the crucial period of this match.
Despite finishing one point below Zimbabwe in the table, England must enter the final as favourites. They have by a long way the best pace bowling attack of the tournament, with Darren Gough, Andy Caddick and Alan Mullally backed by Mark Ealham and Craig White. Zimbabwe only have Heath Streak in that category, and he finds the white ball harder to control. England also have the psychological advantage of having beaten Zimbabwe twice in succession, quite convincingly, in their last two encounters. Zimbabwe's batsmen have impressed against the West Indies but have been unable to master the much greater control of the England attack.
On paper, Zimbabwe have a longer batting line-up than England, with Andy Flower down to bat at number seven and all eleven having good scores to their account against international opposition. But, given the fact that Zimbabwe are unused to success and, as admitted by former coach Dave Houghton, tend to `choke' under pressure, it would be a major surprise were they to emerge victorious from today's encounter.
England play the same team as they did against West Indies at Trent Bridge on Thursday, except in that Caddick returns for Paul Franks. From their last match, against England at Edgbaston last Tuesday, Zimbabwe replace Paul Strang and Pommie Mbangwa with Bryan Strang and Mluleki Nkala. The teams are as follows:
England: Marcus Trescothick, Alec Stewart, Andy Flintoff, Graeme Hick, Graham Thorpe, Nasser Hussain (capt), Craig White, Mark Ealham, Andy Caddick, Darren Gough, Alan Mullally.
Zimbabwe: Neil Johnson, Guy Whittall, Alistair Campbell, Stuart Carlisle, Murray Goodwin, Grant Flower, Andy Flower (capt), Dirk Viljoen, Heath Streak, Mluleki Nkala, Bryan Strang.