June 22, 2000

Cambridge, Close: Zimbabweans 196/2 (61.2 overs Carlisle 60, Wishart 58)

Rain ruined the prospect of the match between the Universities and the Zimbabwean tourists reaching a conventional finish. When the weather finally brought play on the second day of three to a close, the tourists were 196 for two off 61.2 overs (Stuart Carlisle 60, Craig Wishart 58). This was in reply to the Universities' morning declaration at 261 for eight.

A bright and sunny morning had clouded over by the time play started, with the Universities continuing their innings. Joe Porter, on 90 overnight, was pressing for his maiden first-class century, while Heath Streak bowled with fierce determination that he was not going to get it.

Perhaps Streak's fire unsettled Porter, as he tried too hard to score off Gary Brent at the other end, and after one or two over-ambitious strokes tried to pull him, only to hit the ball on the bottom of the bat and lob a straight-forward catch to Bryan Strang at mid-off. He made 93, and at this point the Universities' captain Richard Dawson declared. Strang himself had the best Zimbabwean bowling figures of three for 42 off 22 overs, while Streak, although wayward early on the first day, bowled superbly later on without taking a wicket. In his 20 overs he conceded only 21 runs.

There was a light shower between innings, which led to a short delay before Zimbabwe came out to bat. Neil Johnson was deputed to open the innings with Guy Whittall, with Craig Wishart, brought into the squad for the triangular tournament, demoted to the depths of the middle order. Johnson was soon under way with a typical boundary through extra cover off Charles Pimlott, who opened the bowling opposite Mark Tournier. When Tournier pitched short, Johnson pulled him for a one-bounce four over midwicket, then drove a four and three to extra cover, as usual, off successive balls from Pimlott.

There was some controversy when Whittall snicked a ball from Hardinges, replacing Pimlott, low to second slip, where the tall Will Jefferson remarkably got low enough to reach it and appeared to catch it at the second attempt; however, Whittall stood his ground and the umpires did not give him out. It later transpired that both umpires had been unsighted at the critical moment, one by the bowler and the other by third slip, and so neither had been in a position to make a decision.

Whittall began to open up now, only to fall for 25, flicking at a ball down the leg side from Tim Murtagh and being caught by wicket-keeper James Foster diving far down the leg side. He scored 25, and Zimbabwe were 71 for one. Carlisle came in next, one of the few opportunities he has had on this tour at the top of the order. He did not look very confident to start with, but survived until lunch, when the score was 78 for one (27 overs; Johnson 36, Carlisle 5).

After lunch Carlisle began to play some fine strokes, taking advantage of bowlers who too often strayed short and wide outside the off stump with some fierce cutting. Rain, however, cut 12 overs from the afternoon session, and on resumption Johnson (39) became bogged down before slashing at Dawson and being caught at the wicket, walking straight away; Zimbabweans 97 for two.

Wishart was soon under way while Carlisle kept the score moving all the time. Wishart hooked at Tournier and the ball flew up to be caught in the slips, but the batsman indicated that the ball had come off his shoulder. The umpire agreed and the fielders did not seem too upset this time. But before the over had been completed, the players were fleeing the rain again. Another 13 overs were lost and an early tea was taken, with the score 115 for two (Carlisle 32, Wishart 7).

Carlisle continued his onslaught when play resumed, cutting frequently with profit and off-driving Dawson for four to reach 49. He then calmly turned a ball past square leg to reach an attractive fifty, despite the stoppages, off 67 balls.

Wishart took much longer to get going, but he too finally joined the party. While Carlisle became becalmed for a while, Wishart hit three straight sixes, the final one, right over the pavilion off Porter, bringing him his fifty off 91 balls. But once again rain invaded at 5.21, and play was eventually abandoned for the day.

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