England v Zimbabwe, Group B, Cape Town September 13, 2007

Pietersen ensures Zimbabwe cannot repeat their heroics

England 188 for 9 (Pietersen 79, Collingwood 37, Chigumbura 4-31) beat Zimbabwe 138 for 7 (Taylor 47, Mascarenhas 3-18)
Scorecard



Kevin Pietersen nonchalantly flicks a six on his way to 79 © Getty Images
England, inspired by a typically idiosyncratic 79 from 37 balls from Kevin Pietersen, eased to a 50-run win over Zimbabwe at Cape Town.

Zimbabwe, who until the last quarter of the match again played out of their skins, battled hard but they were left with too many runs to chase. They will now need to wait to see who wins tomorrow's group match between England and Australia; if it is Australia, then Zimbabwe's poor run-rate might well count against them - the second ten overs of their innings was worth 58 for 6. Given how they played last night, that would be cruel.

It wasn't all plain sailing for England who lost two early wickets to Elton Chigumbura to briefly raise the prospect of another upset. But whereas Australia were rusty and out of form, England came into the tournament on the back of a long summer of cricket and with five years of Twenty20 matches under their belts.

They also possess some awesome firepower - even though some of it fizzed in today's damp conditions. Darren Maddy, who had cause to change his bat before facing a ball, and Matt Prior fleetingly cut loose, while Luke Wright followed his duck at Lord's at the weekend with a first-baller.

Pietersen and Paul Collingwood came together at 51 for 3 and immediately laid into the bowling. The short boundaries helped their cause no end, and twice sixes to the short boundary on the brewery side flew inches over fielders, But unlike Australia, they hit hard and timed the ball at will, bludgeoning 100 for the fourth wicket off 54 balls.

Pietersen, whose skill at improvisation makes him the ideal Twenty20 batsman, smacked four sixes and seven fours in his 37-ball stay. By the time he departed, caught on the cover boundary reverse-sweeping a full toss - and was almost immediately followed by Collingwood - England were on course for a post-200 score.



Brendan Taylor continued where he left off ... but this time the ask was too much © Getty Images
But Zimbabwe did not wilt and pegged them back with brilliant fielding and tight bowling, and although Flintoff was dropped three times in four deliveries off Chamu Chibhabha - he eventually got his man with the last ball of a remarkable over - these were rare blemishes.

There was the usual flurry of heaves, hoicks and catches off steeplers in the final overs. An out-of-sorts Flintoff was bowled, while Owais Shah and Dimitri Mascarenhas both perished to good catches in the deep. The last two put the impressive Chigumbura on a hat-trick for the second time in the game, as he finished with 4 for 31.

Brendan Taylor and Vusi Sibanda again gave Zimbabwe a good platform to build on with an opening stand of 74 in 8.4 overs, laying into the new-ball attack of Stuart Broad and James Anderson whose control and length was lacking. Even Flintoff, on earlier than planned, was unable to stem the tide and he was withdrawn after an expensive over.

It was with the introduction of two journeymen with heaps of domestic experience - Mascarenhas and Chris Schofield - that England started to strangle the life out of the innings. Both took the pace of the ball and left the batsmen to do all the work - and they struggled.

Taylor, who took up where he had left off last night, also grew frustrated and started taking chances. He slammed Mascarenhas for six but that was as good as it got - Mascarenhas took three wickets in as many overs as the steepling run-rate got to Zimbabwe. Taylor was the third to go and at the time Zimbabwe were still very much in the hunt, but his dismissal was a hammer blow and the innings never recovered as six wickets fell for 30 runs.

Schofield was unfazed by seven years in the wilderness, found a length from the off and was rewarded with two wickets in four balls, his first in international cricket. He should have had three when he beat Taylor in the flight only for Prior to juggle the ball with the batsman stranded. In the event, the miss wasn't crucial.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo