England - handsome victory
Alec Stewart acknowledges his half-century
Photo © AllSport
For the first time since 1998 in Sharjah, England have won a one-day tournament. By putting on a thoroughly professional performance in the final of the NatWest Series, Zimbabwe were beaten by 6 wickets to allow Nasser Hussain to leave the field and go straight to the balcony to lift the Trophy and receive the congratulations of a crowd massed in front of the pavilion.
The game ended with Lord's bathed in sunlight, but when Hussain won the toss there were clouds above the ground, perhaps helping the captain's decision to put Zimbabwe in to bat. His bowlers responded by dismissing the first 4 Zimbabwe batsmen inside 15 overs with only 31 runs on the board.
Darren Gough had Guy Whittall caught by Graeme Hick at wide slip with his first ball. Murray Goodwin, playing his last international match, was bowled by Gough with a fast off-break in the sixth over. Alistair Campbell survived 19 balls before being caught by Craig White in the covers off Alan Mullally in his first over. Neil Johnson, also playing his last international - for the time being at least - was bowled by Andrew Caddick for 21 going for another expansive stroke having already hit 5 fours in his innings.
It was left to the Flower brothers, Andy and Grant, to resurrect the innings with a carefully compiled partnership of 89 in 27 overs. It was not necessarily attractive to watch, but the circumstances did not allow spectacular stroke-play. The resilience of the Zimbabweans had to be admired and it was not until the captain touched Craig White to the wicket-keeper two short of his fifty that England gained the upper hand once again. A large total looked unlikely even when the Flowers were together, but 200 might have proved difficult in the conditions.
Stuart Carlisle came in at the fall of Andy Flower's wicket but failed to raise the tempo before holing out to long on, but Heath Streak raised 18 from 12 balls, including 2 impressive sixes over the covers off White. Grant Flower was left 53 not out as England's bowling, backed up by some impressive fielding, restricted Zimbabwe to 169 from their 50 overs.
That total suddenly took on greater proportions when Marcus Trescothick edged Streak to slip in the third over and, four balls later, the same bowler accounted for Andrew Flintoff. A score of 9 for 2 at that stage demanded serious rebuilding and England had the right man at the crease in Alec Stewart. In one of the richest veins of form of his career and with two one-day international centuries behind him in consecutive innings, he set out for a third.
He was joined by Hick who was content to play the supporting role on a slow pitch that did not offer pace onto the bat. With careful application at the outset, this pair slowly took the game out of Zimbabwe's reach, never allowing the required rate to exceed 3.5 runs an over.
Andy Flower brought Streak back into the attack once without taking the wicket so badly needed, but in his third spell he finally ended Stewart's resistance. After a classical cover drive and a withering on drive, Stewart played a tired shot outside off stump to edge to the `keeper. He had faced 123 balls and stroked 14 fours to leave him just 3 short of his century.
Hick followed three overs later, deceived by a ball held back by Dirk Viljoen, when he hit a simple catch back to the bowler. It was not a typical innings from Hick for he reached the boundary only once in his 95 ball innings.
Graham Thorpe and Hussain took England home in the 46th over, with Thorpe stroking the winning runs off the bowling of Campbell - the first sign that Zimbabwe had shown signs of conceding defeat. They had played their full part in the success of the series, but it was England who took the honours, the prize and the plaudits. It was a significant step towards perhaps greater prizes in the future.