First Match

England v Zimbabwe

At Birmingham, September 10, 11. England won by 152 runs. England 2 pts. Toss: Zimbabwe. England overcame a nervous beginning and eventually intimidated their young opponents before winning easily. This dull contest provided a dismal showcase for the start of the competition and was watched by barely 3,000 on the rain-hit opening day (and a few hundred when it resumed on the Saturday), almost certainly the lowest crowd ever to attend an England one-day international at home. Those who did turn up booed the opening ceremony, such as it was, with cries of "Get on with it!" as the ICC president, Ehsan Mani, shook hands with the teams before the delayed start. Things got rapidly worse from there. Tinashe Panyangara, Zimbabwe's 18-year-old opening bowler, bowled seven wides in his first over. None the less, the England batsmen, looking decidedly under-motivated, struggled to build a total against a side that showed considerable spirit and athleticism. They were saved, perhaps not coincidentally, by the two players least sure of their place: Solanki and Collingwood, whose canny second-day innings - his customary placements leavened by three sixes, two in successive balls off Hondo - took England to the brink of 300 and well out of Zimbabwe's reach. Harmison, bowling with and like the wind, and Flintoff were far too good for the Zimbabwean batsmen in these damp conditions. But a fighting innings from another of their 18-year-olds, Elton Chigumbura, impressed England, and delayed them.

A handful of protesters opposed to the Zimbabwean regime sat quietly in the stands, but in the cold found it hard to maintain the formation they needed to show off their one-letter T-shirts reading MUGABE OUT. Eventually, this just became MUABO.

Man of the Match: P. D. Collingwood. Attendance: 5,600. Close of play: England 198-5 (38 overs) (Collingwood 35, Jones 23).

© John Wisden & Co