Second Cornhill Test

England v Zimbabwe, 2000

Simon Briggs

At Nottingham, June 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Drawn. Toss: Zimbabwe. Test debut: M. L. Nkala.

The Zimbabwean worm turned here. After the obloquy of Lord's - which Andy Flower described as their worst showing since gaining Test status - they produced a sparky performance that finally kick-started their tour. But while Flower's imaginative last-morning declaration may have embarrassed England, rain had already washed away any real chance of a result. Given the loss of four of the first six sessions, Zimbabwe needed to take control much earlier than they did. England kept the same team and, on the first day, the same position of ascendancy. Flower eagerly inserted them when play began after lunch. But in damp, swinging conditions, his bowlers' line went awry, allowing Atherton and Ramprakash to capitalise with an opening stand of 121. An eye-popping lifter removed Ramprakash, but Atherton reached the close on 96; as rain turned Friday into the first blank day at a Nottingham Test for 33 years, he could not complete the job until the weekend. But his fifth Test hundred at Trent Bridge, and 50th in all first-class cricket, was rarely in doubt. He was the one Englishman to deal appropriately with Zimbabwe's gentle out-swing bowlers, despatching them through the cover ring off the front foot with a technical neatness many thought he had lost. He batted nearly eight hours, faced 330 balls, and hit 19 fours as well as a hooked six off Streak.

Apart from the openers, the only batsman to make an impact was Schofield, who carved out an enterprising 57 in his second Test. However, his style was so unorthodox, with his back foot wandering towards square leg and his penchant for the reverse sweep, that his innings may have aroused as much anxiety as approbation in the selectors' minds.

It was soon clear that England would need every run they had scraped out. After Grant Flower had fallen in Gough's opening over - another failure in the dying moments of the game took his first-class total on tour to 69 from 11 innings - the Zimbabweans revelled in a rich diet of long-hops, a particular boon for Goodwin, who cashed in with a chanceless unbeaten 148, his third Test century. Raised on the trampoline pitches of Perth, Western Australia, he was lethal on the back foot, though vulnerable when drawn forward, and hit 20 fours in his stay of five and a half hours. He added 129 with Johnson - both were playing in their last Test for Zimbabwe - and another 122 with Andy Flower.

England's bowling had shown none of the sharpness of Lord's. Observing Caddick's sluggish display, Hussain wondered whether it had been right to pull him out of the preceding round of county matches. But the biggest disappointment was Schofield, who bowled with near-complete disregard for the niceties of line and length. England's latest slow-bowling prospect failed to take a wicket from 18 overs that cost just over four apiece.

Resuming 89 ahead, England had to wait for Atherton, who had missed most of Sunday with a gastric bug, to become available. The reshuffled top six soon lost their own appetite in the face of two early strikes from debutant Mluleki Nkala, a 19-year-old in-swing bowler from Falcon College in Matabeleland. First, Ramprakash edged a drive at the variation straight one, then Hussain opted to leave alone and was beaten by a boomeranging break-back. When Knight fell across his stumps, his technique evaporating, and was bowled by Streak's yorker, England were an undignified 12 for three.

Flintoff, as is his wont, tried to hit his way out of trouble, launching Mbangwa over long-off with a ballistic drive. But Streak made him look oafish with one superb, remote-controlled over. Flintoff played and missed four times before finally nicking a catch behind. It was a rapid decline, but never rapid enough for Zimbabwe. A rare filibuster of an innings from Hick, batting almost three hours for 30, held them up until the arrival of Atherton, who settled England's stomach by top-scoring again. In the first innings, he had passed Denis Compton's record 955 Test runs at Nottingham; now he was into his second thousand. Zimbabwe were left just five overs to bat, and lost Grant Flower before the hand-shaking began.

So England had still not shrugged off the inconsistency that dogged their performances throughout the 1990s. Most worryingly, their two young Lancastrians, Flintoff and Schofield, appeared to lack the nous required at the highest level. But Trent Bridge proved to be a Rubicon for Zimbabwe, whose domestic troubles were placing them under increasing strain. On Thursday, the players wore black armbands in honour of Tony Oates, a farmer and friend of several of the team, who had been shot dead on his farm the day before the match. - SIMON BRIGGS.

Man of the Match: M. W. Goodwin. Attendance: 23,273; receipts £358,379. Men of the Series: England - M. A. Atherton; Zimbabwe - H. H. Streak.

© John Wisden & Co