June 1, 2000

England v Zimbabwe, Second Test, Day 1

With wet conditions continuing to prevail in this series, the playing hours were slightly restricted on the first day. It provided the opportunity for CricInfo to talk to Clive Rice, Nottinghamshire's Cricket Manager.

While his team is making good progress this season, Rice is particularly happy with the long-awaited arrival of Pakistan's fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar.

"You can see what Shoaib has done with coming into the club, the membership has increased by 20% already, before the season has properly started. So that's the interest shown by the people. He is probably the most exciting young player in world cricker today and the fastest bowler. When you get someone bowling at that sort of pace it is really exciting and most spectacular.

"The anticipation of what he might do this season is certainly evident in terms of enquiries as to when he will start playing and also when you see within the side the excitement about the fact that a missile is about to be delivered, there is a lot of confidence created in the team.

He said: "He is such a positive person, just his presence has generated so much confidence. If he can win you between eight and ten games, that can bring you a trophy. The prospects are just so exciting. You will also find that other bowlers in the side will feed off his presence that he might be coming on to bowl or he is bowling and the batsmen can't get him away so they take chances at the other end and you get dismissals as a result of that.

"Pakistan were a bit silly to make him bowl when he wasn't fully recovered from a pulled muscle that is why it has taken him longer to get fit. We are hoping that he will be fit in a week to play against Worcestershire. "

Rice added, "Shoaib is popular, he is easy to get on with and has endeared himself to the guys already."

He then went on to say that at Trent Bridge they have a programme going for promoting the game in the area and the developement of young players. " We will be sifting through and letting the promising ones come through to an elite group."

Finally, Clive Rice talked about CricInfo: " When I see the kind of coverage that is taking place on the internet through Cricinfo, it is absolutely brilliant. The information and updates given on the games is excellent. You can follow it without being there and I think the fact that they are sponsoring the Nottinghanshire team is really great."

As far as the cricket was concerened today, it can only be said that not much has been going right for Zimbabwe on this tour as they struggle with injuries, poor form, weather conditions and not least with a little worry of the political unrest back home. But while that was beginning to give indications of scaling down to an extent, it raised its ugly head yesterday with the murder of another white farmer whose son Jason Oates is a first-class cricketer there and as a mark of respect the Zimbabweans wore black arm bands on the field.

Andy Flower, the tourists' beleaguered captain must have thought that things might begin to go their way when he won a toss which seemed important under the heavy sky. The conditions were similar to Lord's in the previous Test and his thoughts must have gone back to that morning when England put them in and saw a most humiliating batting performance.

But any hope that Zimbabwe might have held of getting England off to a similar start was dispelled rapidly. After a tentative start, during which both England openers played and missed against the swinging ball, particularly from Heath Streak, both batsmen settled in and once again Zimbabwe suffered. The brilliant opening stand and the prospects of what may well follow must already be agonising for Zimbabwe.