Second Test

England v Zimbabwe

Stephen Brenkley

At Chester-le-Street, June 5, 6, 7. England won by an innings and 69 runs. Toss: England. Test debut: R. L. Johnson.



The new Test ground at Chester-le-Street © Getty Images
Enlarge

England's first new Test venue for 101 years - and the 87th in all Test cricket - produced an occasion that the contest failed to match. The organisation at the Riverside ground was meticulous but not oppressive; the setting in the shadow of 14th-century Lumley Castle had a charm unlike anything seen before at an English Test ground; and it was clear throughout that the North-East wanted and deserved to stage regular international cricket.

If there was a criticism, it was that the attendance on the first two days did not match expectations. Not until the climax on the third day did the temporary stands brim with spectators. The explanation was probably simple: inaugural Test or not, the area's fervent sporting public was not deluded by the quality of the competition.

Although Streak bowled with admirable control and there was some belated resistance on the third afternoon, too many of Zimbabwe's players lacked method or gumption, or both. England took comprehensive advantage, and although there was a puncture in the middle of their innings, it was painlessly repaired, and they sent Zimbabwe to their ninth consecutive Test defeat.

For England, Richard Johnson made his debut in place of the injured Hoggard, nine years after first entering the national consciousness by taking ten wickets in an innings for Middlesex. His analysis here was eye-catching too, if not quite as spectacular, and he instantly found a good length and some accurate inswing. Helped by two wickets in his first over, he followed Anderson at Lord's in claiming a five-wicket haul in his first Test. His eventual figures of six for 33 were the sixth-best by an Englishman on Test debut.

On a pitch as low and slow as expected, only Butcher in the England top order looked fluent, and when Hondo produced a golden spell on the first afternoon to take three wickets in 11 balls, England were in a spot of trouble at 156 for five. They were eased calmly out of it by Stewart and McGrath, whose partnership of 149 equalled the record for any England wicket against Zimbabwe. The calls for Stewart to be jettisoned had, if anything, grown louder since the victory at Lord's. He responded with clean-cut defiance, as might have been expected. Each of his 11 fours seemed to be designed to make his point, while his 68 lifted his Test aggregate to 8,281 runs, ahead of David Gower (8,231) and behind only Graham Gooch (8,900) on England's all-time list.

Meanwhile, McGrath again looked at home by making his second half-century in his second Test. He was playing well enough to make the Riverside's first Test hundred when he pushed at one away from his body. With Giles also making a second consecutive fifty and Johnson enjoying himself, England's last five wickets contributed 260.

But when Johnson's name was announced in the field, the spectators greeted his introduction silently: they wanted the local boy, Harmison, to share the new ball. The equivalent of just over a session later, Johnson was accorded a hero's return. His first ball in Test cricket was a menacing yorker that almost sneaked through. Before the over was out, however, he was on a hat-trick. Vermeulen misjudged an in-swinger and Carlisle was understandably beaten by another brutal yorker. Only Taibu displayed any semblance of purpose. There were seven lbws, a Test record for a single innings; the technology did suggest some umpiring errors, but the lack of batting proficiency against persistent bowling was more culpable.

Zimbabwe could hardly do worse in following on and in the event gave a capacity third-day crowd the best of both worlds. The entertainment, comprising Zimbabwean resistance and inevitable English victory, went on into the late afternoon. Ebrahim concentrated fiercely and made a half-century, while Friend indulged in some unfettered hitting towards the end.

Anderson, who seemed like an old hand in his second Test, was given every opportunity by Hussain to take another five-wicket haul. He was denied by Harmison who, to the delight of the crowd, finished off the match and the series by bouncing out Price and yorking Hondo. For the first time since the 1985 Ashes, England had won successive Tests by an innings. It was a happy omen for future Tests here. Unlike the last new ground - Bramall Lane, Sheffield, used in 1902 but never again - the Riverside looked here to stay.

Man of the Match: R. L. Johnson. Attendance: 25,878; receipts £569,159.
Men of the Series: England - M. A. Butcher; Zimbabwe - H. H. Streak.
Close of play: First day, England 298-5 (Stewart 67, McGrath 68); Second day, Zimbabwe 41-1 (Ebrahim 22, Carlisle 19).

© John Wisden & Co. Ltd.