England 95 for 4 (Flintoff 47*, Streak 4-21) beat Zimbabwe 92 (Gough 4-26) by six wickets
Andrew Flintoff: three wickets and a vital 47 not out
Andrew Flintoff thumped a rapid 47 not out to help England complete a six-wicket victory over Zimbabwe at Bristol to book their place in the NatWest Series final. Darren Gough led the way on a quick and bouncy pitch made for seam bowling, and though Heath Streak fought back with four wickets, it was not enough to prevent England setting up a Lord's showdown with South Africa on July 12.
By selecting five seamers for this make-or-break fixture, England promised Zimbabwe a trial by pace, and that is exactly what they delivered in a torrid 25-over spell. Bowling with pace, bounce and sideways movement to an attacking 7-2 field, Gough picked up 4 for 26 in nine overs, and Zimbabwe were left blowing in the wind. The top three were clueless, prodding leaden-footed to the swinging ball on a seamer-friendly pitch, and were all caught close to the wicket as Zimbabwe crashed to 20 for 3 in the sixth over.
It got worse, and even didn't threaten to get any better. Johnson continued his happy knack of taking early wickets, finding the thick edge of Tatenda Taibu's bat with his very first delivery, to give Marcus Trescothick his second catch of the innings. And one over later, Grant Flower - who had been dropped at slip by a sprawling Flintoff - nicked a snorting off-stump lifter from Gough to Chris Read for 1 (39 for 5).
It was a no-win moment for Steve Harmison to have his first bowl in an ODI since January, and sure enough, he responded with a wild and woolly over that went for 11 runs, as Staurt Matsikenyeri cashed in to become the first Zimbabwean to reach double figures in the innings. And Zimbabwe were grateful for his brave 26 and a flashy 17 from Andy Blignaut who helped scramble the score to a dismal 92. Game over, or so it seemed.
England were expecting a cakewalk, but they ended up walking a tightrope as Streak left them dangling at 25 for 4 after eight overs. Trescothick was first to go, caught low in the gully by Travis Friend (20 for 1), and Johnson, surprisingly promoted to No. 3, lasted only two balls before top-edged a heave to mid-off where Charles Coventry took a good catch after nearly colliding with Dion Ebrahim (20 for 2).
Streak continued to exploit the overcast conditions to bowl an attacking line, and in his next over he got his third reward when Vikram Solanki tried to pull out of a cut shot, but feathered an away-swinger to Taibu (22 for 3). After scratching around for four balls, Anthony McGrath then fell in a similar fashion, prodding Streak straight to Flower at second slip (25 for 4). Suddenly, 93 looked a mile away for England.
But while Michael Vaughan dug in to steady his side's nerves, Flintoff clubbed England's way to safety and victory with a host of booming boundaries that no-one else dared to attempt. While Streak again led the way, Blignaut did his best to keep up some pressure and he revved up his speed to the 90mph mark. But while he troubled the top-order, Flintoff simply smashed him away as quickly as he came. Latching on to anything short, and whipping away the full balls through mid-on, Flintoff blasted the game away from Zimbabwe. He smashed 21 off one Blignaut over, and two sixes: one over square leg off a no-ball and then a flyer over the wicketkeeper and slips to finish things off with 47 from 37 balls.
It completed a dismal weekend for Zimbabwe, whose luck, and tour, was summed up when Flintoff was dropped by Friend at first slip when on 33. It probably wouldn't have mattered, but nor now do the remaining two matches of their disappointing tour.