Report by Neil Robinson 06/07/03
Well, another day and another ODI. A heavy defeat for Zimbabwe too as their batting wilted beneath Englandís pace barrage at the Nevil Road ground in Bristol. After having been reduced to 92 for 6 by South Africa just 24 hours before, poor Zimbabwe found themselves hustled out for 92 in total on a pitch offering pace, bounce and movement. The game was a personal triumph for Darren Gough, who bowled splendidly to take 4 for 26, and Andrew Flintoff, who mopped up the Zimbabwe tail then stroked his side to victory after some early innings wobbles. Consolation for Zimbabwe came in the form of some swashbuckling resistance from the promising Stuart Matsikenyeri and another wonderful spell of bowling from Heath Streak. Neither had much support.
Another grey day and another short match, but at least a full house was crammed into this compact ground. For much of the Zimbabwe innings they might have been watching England at catching practice. Young Charles Coventry had been chosen for his debut in place of Dougie Marillier, but the broad grin he wore on his face for much of the morning didnít last long once he opened the innings against Anderson and Gough. Like too many of the Zimbabweans this summer, his technique simply wasnít up to dealing with the fast, moving ball. A leading edge to mid-off off Anderson ended his brief, tortured stay. Thereafter it was a procession of catches to slip and wicket keeper, Chris Read bagging four in another immaculate display behind the stumps. The conditions were tough, certainly, but all the familiar technical faults which dogged Zimbabwe during the Test matches were on view once again.
England had gone in with a full hand of pace bowlers, Harmison coming in for Giles, the back-up bowling of Rikki Clarke winning him the nod over Jim Troughton. The idea was clearly to emulate South Africa and pummel the Zimbabweans with pace, rather than letting them settle against the gentle spin of Giles as they had at Trent Bridge. It worked a treat. Vaughan kept the pressure on and the field in close. Although neither Anderson nor Harmison were at their best, Andersonís fifth over beginning with three wides, Gough, Johnson and Flintoff were more than enough to dispose of the opposition. Only the tally of 24 extras, 16 in wides, took off any of the gloss.
Zimbabwe had slumped to 51 for 7 before Matsikenyeri decided attack was the only form of defence. He drove on the up and cut with great power in an innings of 26 from 35 balls, any short stuff receiving the harshest treatment. But after a word from Vaughan, Flintoff produced a fast inswinger to rattle his stumps. There were a couple more blows from Blignaut, but Flintoff soon swept through the tail to leave England with what seemed an easy task.
Against South Africa at Cardiff, Zimbabweís defence of a poor total wasnít helped by some early misfortune with their appeals. They needed quick wickets again here, and England seemed quite happy to give them away. Having reached 20 with a few air shots alnog the way, they proceeded to lose four wickets for five runs in double quick time. Of the four, only Richard Johnson, bizarrely promoted to number three, got out to a genuine attacking shot, skying a pull to extra cover. The rest were the products of batsmen in two minds, Trescothick patting the ball loosely to third slip, Solanki failing to pull out of a cut and edging to the keeper, McGrath fending away from his body.
Streak had bagged all four, and his early figures of 5-3-6-4 were well deserved. At 25 for 4, with Streak still bowling and the ball swinging and bouncing, England were looking nervous and probably wishing they had been more frugal with the extras when they bowled. It was exactly the kind of situation where you want your captain to show some bottle and your star all rounder to show his growing maturity. Vaughan anchored down, Flintoff played himself in for a couple of overs, then in one over from Blignaut he took the game away form Zimbabwe.
The first two balls were pulled and driven for four. Next came a wide down the leg side, then a no-ball hooked high and handsome to square leg where Coventry could only parry it over the rope for six. A drive over mid-on for four followed, then a dot, then a single driven to mid-off and Vaughan played the last ball out calmly. The over had yielded 21 runs, England were 60 for 4 and almost home. The ball would beat the bat a few more times, but by the time Flintoff was dropped at slip by Travis Friend only 13 more were needed. With the help of another no-ball from Blignaut, Flintoff finished it off with three mighty blows.
For all their shaky start, England had cruised home with 32 overs to spare, comfortably claiming the bonus point which guarantees an England v South Africa final at Lordís on Saturday. Their batting will need to improve before then. Zimbabwe have just one more match to go before they can put this difficult tour behind them and head home. They play South Africa on Thursday in the first international ever to be played at Southamptonís Rose Bowl ground. After their troubles at Cardiff and Bristol, they wonít be pleased to hear of the Rose Bowlís reputation as a bowler friendly wicket.
Zimbabwe 92 (24.5 overs) (Gough 4 for 26, Flintoff 3 for 13)
England 95 for 4 (17.5 overs) (Flintoff 47*, Streak 4 for 21)
England won by 6 wickets
Man of the Match: