June 3, 2000

2nd Test, 3rd day, Nottingham

For the third successive day the weather had its say with the start being delayed until 12.15pm. But surprisingly there were no interruptions once it going.

From England's point of view, the initial interest lay in Michael Atherton scoring the four runs for which he had waited since the end of play on the first day. That amounted to seven and a quarter hours during which no play was possible.

Despite having scored four hundred runs in the previous Test at Lord's and near enough that figure in the innings completed today, there is no clear indication that all is well with England's batting, going by the innings here.

Atherton's patient innings took him to his fourteenth Test century and the 50th of his first-class career. With it he also equalled Denis Compton's record of five Test centuries on this ground and it was of no surprise to hear him say that this was his favourite venue and that he always enjoyed batting here. Indeed, his maiden Test hundred (151) was also at Trent Bridge, against New Zealand in 1990. With the exception of Pakistan and Sri Lanka, he has now scored centuries against every Test-playing nation.

A cause of worry for England must be the failure of the middle-order batsmen. Graeme Hick, on the first day and Alec Stewart and Nick Knight today, were dismissed before even reaching double figures. All-rounder Andy Flintoff could only make 16 from 46 ba lls faced and although Chris Schofield hit a fine maiden Test half-century in only his second Test match, his job in the side is primarily to take wickets.

At Lord's England had good scores from four specialist batsmen and, for consistency, that is what was required here. After all, with the series against West Indies to follow shortly, England's batsmen are being provided with the opportunity, by the weak opposition, of building confidence and getting practice at Test match level.

Without the unexpected contribution of tail-ender Schofield and the 48 'extras', England's batsmen totalled 269 of which nearly 200 came from the opening pair. Bearing in mind that the bowling that they will face from West Indies will be at a much higher level than what the struggling Zimbabweans have had to offer, England will no doubt need to look at their batting carefully.

Test debutant, 19-year-old Mluleki Nkala, finished with figures of 3 for 82, having taken 3 for 67 from 26 overs at one stage. A very commendable performance from the young lad.