June 2, 2000

England v Zimbabwe, Second Test, Day 2

The duration of a Test match is usually determined by the state of play in the first two days. At Trent Bridge, however, the progress of the match seems totally dependent on the elements.

Although, in the end, only an hour's playing time was lost yesterday with the extra hour being taken in sunshine towards the end of the day, the second day saw no action at all.

Having made several ground inspections, the umpires finally decided around 5.30pm, that no play was possible, the outfield being particularly wet. It is an interesting statistic that this is the tenth time that an entire day's play has been lost on this ground and it's the first time since August 1967.

Some may think that in view of Zimbabwe's performance on this tour generally and after the one-sided show at Lord's, the inclement weather is being merciful to them. Not even the most optimistic of their supporters would be entertaining serious thoughts of Zimbabwe being able to lift their game sufficiently to come anywhere near to levelling this two-match series.

Even allowing for the perversity of cricket, it cannot be said that with any major disruption to play caused by the weather over the next three days, the tourists could get away with a draw. Not that that will do any good to anyone - least of all the spectators who have suffered enough today under their umbrellas - apart from the fact that for Zimbabwe, a series result of one loss and one draw would look better in the record books than two losses.

For England though, it would break a welcome momentum gained lately. It would deprive them of the opportunity of forcing a third successive Test victory after the contrived result at Centurion Park against South Africa and their overwhelming victory at Lord's last week.

It would, consequently, also be uplifting, putting them in an excellent frame of mind, before the second and far more demanding series of this summer.

Already, in the course of this series and this Test in particular, England have been able to focus atleast in one area that has given some cause for concern. The opening batting partnership between Michael Atherton and Mark Ramprakash yesterday, albeit against bowling which lacked the penetration of the kind they are likely to face for the rest of the summer, was a foundation that England's middle order men could work on.

It remains to be seen, when the match resumes tomorrow weather permitting, if the remaining batsmen ( the dismissed Hussain and Hick apart ) can build a daunting enough total for Zimbabwe to face and remain under pressure.