On a rare dry April day, the Zimbabweans made an encouraging start to their first Test-playing tour of England with a day in the field. They dismissed a weakened and rather feeble Hampshire team for 131, and finished the day on 9 for one wicket.
Andy Flower is not playing in this first match of the tour - they wanted to give Tatenda Taibu a game, he said - and with vice-captain Heath Streak, a former Hampshire overseas player flying in the same morning, the captaincy devolved upon Flower's predecessor Alistair Campbell. The Northlands Road ground at Hampshire has had the worst of a soaking April, with two Benson & Hedges matches scheduled there abandoned and the first play of the season could only begin after lunch when the bowlers' run-ups had dried.
Campbell won the toss and put Hampshire in to bat in front of a crowd of about 500. His reason was primarily that Zimbabwe have lacked outdoor practice since their arrival in the country and were looking forward to getting out in the open.
The Hampshire batsmen were soon struggling against determined bowlers who swung the new ball well and also found some movement off the pitch.
Giles White on 5, appeared to snick a catch to keeper Taibu off Olonga, but umpire Peter Willey disagreed, and White survived a testing over, although it was to do him little good. Bryan Strang, who opened from the other end, bowled only two overs before being replaced by Pommie Mbangwa - presumably to change ends later - and this proved a decisive move as the medium-fast seamer was to be the day's leading performer. He quickly had Jason Laney (4) caught low at second slip by Neil Johnson and then White (10) caught at the wicket this time when pushing forward.
Zimbabwe's close catching does not always match the rest of their fielding, and both Will Kendall and Robin Smith were dropped early on in the slips. Smith never looked happy, and was eventually bowled behind his legs by Strang, replacing Olonga for 6, reducing Hampshire to 26 for 3. Derek Kenway came in with positive intent, but it was estimated that well over half of Hampshire's first 40 runs came off involuntary strokes.
After that, for a while the game was transformed as the shine began to wear off the ball and Kendall and Kenway suddenly began to score freely in front of the wicket. Kenway played a couple of superb straight drives, but just when it seemeed as if the county were about to take control, Stuart Carlisle at first slip took a fine low catch off Johnson to oust Kendall for 27. The partnership had added 46 in 11 overs. John Stephenson failed to score, attempting too late to withdraw his bat from a delivery by Johnson, and Hampshire went in to tea on 83 for 5 (Kenway 32, Savident 1).
Kenway played a couple more fine drives after the break until being yorked by Guy Whittall for 48, with nine fours off 70 balls, and then the feeble Hampshire batting subsided. Simon Renshaw (12) tried to hit out when last man Charles van der Gucht reached the crease, and took three massive fresh-air swings at Johnson before getting bat to the fourth - to be caught by Campbell at first slip. Mbangwa had been the pick of an impressive attack, taking four wickets for 19 off 16 overs. Taibu impressed behind the stumps, small, neat and undemonstrative, while Grant Flower clung on to two overhead catches in the gully.
Zimbabwe played out the remaining 12 overs for the loss of Grant Flower, whose nightmare run with the bat continued; pushing forward to Simon Francis before he had scored, his thin edge was picked up by Kenway, standing in as keeper for the injured Adrian Aymes. Trevor Gripper (5) and Murray Goodwin (13) safely saw out the day.
Drizzle for most of the night and morning caused the second day's play to be abandoned without a ball being bowled.
West Indians vs Zimbabweans
Zimbabweans vs M.C.C.
Zimbabweans vs Essex
Essex vs Zimbabweans
Sussex vs Zimbabweans
Zimbabweans vs Kent
Hampshire vs Zimbabweans
Zimbabwe tour of England and Ireland
England Domestic Season