Stewart dominates Zimbabwe bowling
Alec Stewart -
Man of the Match
Man of the Series
Man of the Summer?
Photo © AllSport
England's confidence grows
England/Zimbabwe at Lord's
Alec Stewart's phenominal appetite for run scoring continued unabated at Lord's today as he dominated the Zimbabwe bowling and played the major role in England's victory by the comfortable margin of six wickets in the final of the NatWest Series.
The England batting was built around him once again, as it has been so often in this series. Although England made a poor start in chasing 170 runs for victory, loosing the first two wickets on nine, Stewart showed composure in holding the innings together at that early stage and then settled into a 143-run stand with Graeme Hick, 43, as they batted with growing confidence.
Stewart, having hit successive centuries in his previous two innings which had followed an unbeaten 74 prior to that, again led the way, batting with panache and playing his shots fluently right through his brilliant innings. He drove with fine timing and was quick to pull anything short.
His innings ended when England were a mere 21 short of their target. On 97, having hit two consecutive boundaries, he attempted a cut to a ball that was not that short of a length, and edged a catch behind the stumps. Those three runs that he fell short of would have made him the third batsman to have scored three successive hundreds in limited overs cricket. The feat has only been achieved by Pakistan batsmen, Saeed Anwar and Zaheer Abbas.
Stewart and Trescothick have set example for other batsmen to follow
Stewart leads on aggregate with 408 runs in this competition and his performance in this match and, indeed, in this tournament, was enough for him to be named the man-of-the-match as well as the man-of-the-series.
Despite Stewart's outstanding form and Marcus Trescothick having impressed, especially with his earlier batting in this series, England batting generally has not come off either in this series or in the two Tests played against West Indies. No doubt, that is one area that they will need to address before the Test series resumes early next month.
Earlier, in the Zimbabwe innings, after they had been asked to bat, two quick incisions had crippled their batting to an extent that had made recovery an onerous task in the face of some accurate England bowling. Darren Gough struck with his first ball having Guy Whittall edge the only delivery he received to a wide second slip and four overs later Gough brought one in sharply to Murray Goodwin who could only play it on to his stumps. Gough's excellent bowling eventually brought him three for 20 from his ten overs.
If two wickets down for twelve was a severe blow, particularly when one of which was the wicket of Goodwin, who is the only Zimbabwean with a century - an unbeaten one, too - to his credit in this series, then it looked even worse when Allan Mullally had Alastair Campbell caught with the total on 31.
Zimbabwe's stalwarts bid farewell
However, with Neil Johnson, who is making his farewell appearance for Zimbabwe, as is Goodwin, one taking up residency across the border in South Africa and the other, Goodwin, returning to Western Australia where he grew up learned to play cricket, Zimbabwe still had expectations of staging a recovery.
But England's bowlers had other ideas. They kept the pressure on and although there wasn't a significant ball movement except some from Gough and Mullally, they did not stray in their line and direction.
Caddick bowled his allotted ten overs in one spell and in his eighth over he bowled Johnson. Zimbabwe were 31 for four and 21 of those were scored by Johnson. All but one of those runs had come from boundaries. He chose his strokes carefully, avoided risky singles and waited for the loose balls to hit.
Flowers salvage pride
With not a great deal of batting left, it was all up to the Flower brothers, the only specialist batsmen remaining, to salvage something from an innings that was in tatters. Grant Flower, who heads the Zimbabwe averages in this competition, duly obliged along with Andy, and the two of them set about bringing some respectability to the score.
With only fifteen overs having been bowled when their stand began, they had the time if not the wickets to work on the recovery. They went about it with some caution but did not miss the opportunity to pick up runs.
Andy Flower played more freely while Grant showed a little more restrain. They faced 161 balls during their 89-run partnership, taking the total to 120 when Andy fenced at a ball from Craig White without moving across for it and edged behind for a catch. He had batted patiently for two hours and missed a deserving half-century by two runs.
Grant Flower remained unbeaten after reaching his second half-century of the competition. It was mainly their effort that took the totat to 169 for seven but it never looked enough.