The triangular tournament in South Africa is over and Zimbabwe were washed out rather than knocked out, sadly unable to play what was in effect a semi-final against England because of the weather. Both teams therefore finished level on points, but England made it to the final against South Africa thanks to a superior run rate. This can hardly have satisfied anybody, since the South Africans made no provision for a reserve day.
I try to be realistic about the Zimbabwe team's chances, and I would have made England slight favourites to win that 'semi-final' match, simply because Zimbabwe so often play at their worst when under those sort of pressure situations. We cannot expect Andy Flower always to save the team, although there are others who have played very well at times under intense pressure, notably Guy Whittall in that sensational victory over South Africa a week ago. But even if they had lost, again the experience would have been good, for the younger players especially. Zimbabwe still have to learn to play under pressure.
They may be feeling a different, unfamiliar kind of pressure when England visit Zimbabwe during the next two weeks. Three years ago Zimbabwe won their one-day series against England three-nil, and public expectation here will be high for a repeat of that performance. That is a new kind of pressure Zimbabwe will have to face.
We also cannot expect consistent results from a side in which so many of our top players are out of form and confidence, or get out to soft dismissals. We need many more runs from the likes of Grant Flower, Alistair Campbell and Murray Goodwin. Stuart Carlisle scored a brilliant century against Sri Lanka two months ago, batting at number four. Yet now we find him going in much lower once again, and failing. If certain on the top order are unable to play the major innings required of them, then Stuart should be given another chance while they are shifted lower down.
The expertise of England coach and former Zimbabwean captain Duncan Fletcher will be a particular advantage to the tourists, who will no doubt present a very different image from the team under Mike Atherton and David Lloyd. With their recent inconsistency, Zimbabwe this time could perhaps be regarded as underdogs, but they are quite unpredictable! So is the weather. Confidence for Zimbabwe is such a fragile thing, but they feel they have the measure of England in home conditions. My hope is for some narrow Zimbabwean victories with every member playing his part - narrow, because success in a tight situation is most likely to build a lasting confidence for the future.