First Cornhill Test

England v Zimbabwe, 2000

Hugh Chevallier

Toss: England. Test debut: C. P. Schofield.

Another Lord's Test, another humiliating defeat characterised by two abject batting displays. Only this time it was different. England - excepting an ugly passage on the third afternoon - dominated from start to finish. It was Zimbabwe, in their first Test here, who were the whipping boys, giving England their biggest win since they crushed India by an innings and 285, also on this ground, in 1974. England outplayed their opponents in every respect. Even their fielding was faultless: not a catch dropped, not a run given away. No visiting team had won their first Test at Lord's, and circumstances conspired against Zimbabwe. They had just toured the West Indies, and this, the earliest Test staged in England, was played in distinctly un-Caribbean conditions. The damp and chill of an English spring were meat and drink to the English seamers. There was also a more disturbing backdrop: in Zimbabwe, violence was being directed towards the farming community from which several players came.

In March, the ECB had contracted 12 players to form the core of the Test squad, but injuries ruled out two. Vaughan had a broken finger and Headley a long-term back problem. From Warwickshire came Knight and Giddins, while Chris Schofield, a 21-year-old leg-spinner, made his Test debut in his 23rd first-class game. He got a third-ball duck and did not bowl. Zimbabwe were forced to leave out Olonga, whose ankle injury had deteriorated.

A greenish pitch, thick cloud cover and the forecast of showers all persuaded Hussain, winning his fifth consecutive Test toss, to field. Within half an hour, Caddick had ripped out three batsmen with a testing spell of hostile fast bowling. It would have been 14 for four if umpire Orchard had seen Andy Flower tickling a ball to Stewart. Seven overs before lunch, Giddins came on and, in conditions ideal for medium-pace bowling, he got the ball to swing both ways, and late. His fourth delivery had Flower caught at first slip, and he went on to finish with five wickets in his second Test. Zimbabwe were skittled for just 83; in their first 39 Tests they had never been bowled out for under 100, but now they had succumbed twice in three games, here and in Trinidad.

After years shepherding England's friable tail from No. 6, Ramprakash became Atherton's 12th opening partner. But he did nothing to disabuse those who felt Atherton required a more attacking foil; his solitary boundary was an inside edge, he was dropped behind the stumps on seven and departed for 15 to the last ball of the first day, half-forward to one that nipped back. Nine Test innings on his home ground had brought 79 runs. Atherton, who had never scored a first-class hundred at Lord's, cruised to fifty, then was gone, playing back to Streak. Replays showed the ball had hit bat first, but umpire Willey did not hesitate. Having beaten the bat time and again, Streak deserved his luck.

At 113 for three, England were not yet in control. Hick had started uncertainly, frustrated by an inability to pierce the field, but despite rain interruptions he grew in self-assurance. By stumps on day two, he and Stewart had taken the score to 175 and the game, in all likelihood, was beyond Zimbabwe's reach. Runs came quickly next morning until Hick spent 22 minutes hovering nervously on 99. A push to mid-wicket brought him his sixth Test century - in his first Test against his native country - but Streak ended the celebrations next ball. Hick and Stewart had added 149, the highest stand yet in England-Zimbabwe Tests.

In afternoon sunshine, England should have forged ahead, for rain was forecast for the last two days. Instead, Stewart went into his shell. As he and Knight put on 114 at around three an over, there was a danger of England letting the match drift. Knight's departure for a dour 44 was the belated signal to increase the tempo. But it was the fall of wickets rather than the gathering of runs that picked up speed. England nose-dived from 376 for four to 415 all out, in which time Stewart contributed just nine. Streak, who had bowled magnificently with patchy support, took six for 87, the best by a Zimbabwean in Tests.

England had spent most of the day batting in good conditions; their collapse allowed their bowlers at least 50 minutes at Zimbabwe's batsmen in worsening light. Gough was irresistible. He swung the ball at pace and removed three batsmen in his first four overs. The Zimbabweans were furious at Gripper's wicket. There was genuine doubt whether the ball carried to third slip, just as there had been when Stewart, on 24, had gloved it to the keeper earlier in the day. John Holder, the third umpire, reprieved Stewart but condemned Gripper. Worse was to follow. First Caddick removed Goodwin, and then Murphy, the night-watchman facing the last scheduled over of the day, called Andy Flower for a single. It was against all common sense, and two balls later it cost the captain his wicket. Cock-a-hoop, England claimed the extra half-hour, but bad light closed in after 16 balls. When Sunday's rain relented, Giddins and Caddick, briefly detained by the entertaining antics of Strang, finished the job.

Man of the Match: E. S. H. Giddins. Attendance: 46,309; receipts £823,601.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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