June 17, 2003

Carlisle ton sets up narrow Zimbabwe victory

Zimbabweans 285 for 9 (Carlisle 119, Matsikenyeri 66) beat Somerset 282 for 7 (Bowler 93, Dutch 93) by 3 runs

The Zimbabwean tourists held off a spirited challenge to beat Somerset by three runs at Taunton after a string of misfields and dropped catches had appeared to have cost them victory. Zimbabwe's hero was Stuart Carlisle, who hit another fine century, but their bowling and fielding again left much to be desired.

Dion Ebrahim's recent return to form didn't carry over into this game, as he fell for 8 driving a ball back to Simon Francis in the third over. Carlisle, always a quicker starter in one-day games, launched himself with three fours in one Gareth Andrew over. But Douglas Marillier never got going and was bowled by Francis with a desperation stroke for 11.

Carlisle and Grant Flower kept the score moving with ones and twos, and were just beginning to take charge when Flower drove a return catch to Keith Dutch for 29. Andy Blignaut, promoted in the order, finally hit his first six of the tour, lofting Dutch over long-on, but his success was short-lived, as he flicked Ian Blackwell to Michael Burns at midwicket for 10.

Stuart Matsikenyeri made an impressive start, hitting Wes Durston for a big straight six, and went on to play a range of impressive strokes in a sparkling 66. He still has to prove his temperament at international level, but he clearly has the ability to succeed. He raced to his second successive fifty since joining the tour a week ago, while the prolific Carlisle, in the best form of his career, reached his third century of the trip before skying Durston to long-off and departing for 115.

But the Zimbabwean innings drifted during the final overs, as they lost quick wickets. Matsikenyeri was yorked by Steffan Jones, and the last five wickets fell for 38 runs. Jones, a renowned performer at the death, was the best of the bowlers: he and Andrew took two wickets apiece.

Heath Streak removed Carl Gazzard lbw for 2, but both Peter Bowler and James Bryant should have been removed soon after. Bowler edged Streak through first slip, which had just been dispensed with, and then Streak himself dropped a skyed catch off Bryant. But Bryant did not capitalise on his escape, as Raymond Price bowled him behind his legs for 27 as he tried an ambitious sweep.

Bowler and Dutch then added 134 for the third wicket, again aided by sloppy fielding - Bowler was put down for a second time when he had made 64. As the runs flowed, the fielding deteriorated, and sharp running added to the pressure. Bowler was smartly stumped by Tatenda Taibu off Marillier when he had made 93, and with the asking rate creeping over eight an over Somerset began to struggle.

Ian Blackwell launched a promising onslaught, but Somerset's impetus was dented when Dutch, for the second successive innings, was run out at the non-striker's end from a deflection off the bowler. He also made 93, and his dismissal turned a match which had been Somerset's for the taking.

With three overs left, Somerset needed 18 with five wickets in hand. But two quick wickets and a superb over from Streak left them requiring 11 off the final over. Blackwell ran himself out desperately trying to keep the strike, and with a boundary needed off the last ball, Durston could manage only a single.