|Scorecard:||Zimbabwe v England|
A 161-run defeat spelt disaster for Zimbabwe, but for the first quarter of the match they had England hard pressed. Crucially, a missed run-out enabled England to recover spectacularly from 121 for five, thanks to some startling batting from the Man of the Match, Kevin Pietersen, and Geraint Jones. Chasing a target of 264, Zimbabwe began steadily but then crashed dismally, with only their last pair taking the score past 100.
On another hot morning at Harare Sports Club, England again won the toss and this time decided to bat. Perhaps they considered the weather more settled, or perhaps they were a little worried that the pitch might break up; after all, ground curator Robin Brown had originally prepared it with Sunday in mind, so it was unavoidably – on his part – three days overbaked.
England played the same team as they had on Sunday, while Zimbabwe made two changes. Hamilton Masakadza replaced Vusi Sibanda, despite not having played international cricket for two years, having had little chance of quality cricket in recent weeks and never having been considered a one-day player anyway. It was quite a gamble on the part of the selectors. Douglas Hondo, who has been nursing an injury, gave way to off-spinning all-rounder Gavin Ewing, making his debut, spin being considered a better option than seam on this pitch. Zimbabwe were playing three off-spinners.
Tinashe Panyangara opened with an impressive maiden over to Vikram Solanki, but Chris Mpofu was not very sharp to start with and his first over cost five runs. Panyangara might have had a wicket in his next over, as Solanki slashed at a ball outside the off stump, but Vermeulen at second slip was slow to sight it as it flew just above his head on its way to the boundary.
In the fifth over of the innings, though, Panyangara got his reward, as Ian Bell (5), aiming a rather half-hearted drive, sliced a catch to Dion Ebrahim at backward point. England were 13 for one.
Solanki might have fallen to the next ball, as he aimed a rather rash slash at Mpofu and the bottom edge fell only just short of slip. Panyangara was the more dangerous bowler of the two, accurate and with a little movement off the pitch; Mpofu was generally accurate, but could not find the lift that makes him dangerous, and the occasional loose ball gave the batsmen relief.
Solanki and Michael Vaughan were perhaps a little too eager to attack at times, but the ball flew clear of the field. The Zimbabwe plan was to bowl to a tight off-side field and the bowlers kept their line well. But it was a beautiful delivery from Panyangara that took the wicket of Vaughan for 11, as it straightened off a perfect length and trapped him plumb lbw as he tried to work it on the leg side. England were 30 for two in the 11th over.
England struggled for runs until a beautifully timed straight drive by Solanki off Panyangara went for four. The bowler then rested after an opening spell of seven overs for 24 runs and two wickets. There was a double change, as Elton Chigumbura and Prosper Utseya came into the attack.
England still struggled along at just over three runs to the over, and it was clearly not easy for most players to score quickly on this pitch. Solanki used his feet well to attack the spinners and even the medium-pacers, but one foray down the pitch finally proved too many, as the ball from Utseya turned past his pads and he was stumped down the leg side by Tatenda Taibu for 42. England were 93 for three in the 26th over and Utseya had taken only his second wicket in 12 one-day internationals.
Next to go was Andrew Strauss, who had batted steadily for his 33, but now stepped back to force a ball from Utseya’s fellow off-spinner, Gavin Ewing, through the off side, only to find the ball spinning in to him and bouncing off the top of his middle stump. England were 103 for four in the 29th over and Ewing had taken his first one-day wicket in rather less time than it had taken Utseya.
Kevin Pieterson almost followed Strauss back to the pavilion: backing up too eagerly as Paul Collingwood turned a ball to midwicket, he was stranded in mid-pitch when he was rightly sent back, only for Chigumbura to throw the ball, from 20 metres, over the bowler’s head. It was a bad miss at a critical stage of the match and it was to prove very costly.
Zimbabwe soon struck again, though. Collingwood had just 10 to his name when he flicked at a leg-side ball from Zimbabwe’s third off-spinner, Stuart Matsikenyeri, and was caught well down the leg side by Taibu. England were 121 for five in the 35th over.
Pietersen and Geraint Jones opted for the steady rather than the spectacular, until Pietersen suddenly broke loose and hit Ewing for a big six over cow corner; he then took a single and Jones promptly took a leaf out of his book with a six over midwicket. Mpofu immediately took over from Ewing’s end, but he strayed down the leg side and then Pietersen picked up another six over midwicket. Suddenly England were pulling ahead.
Utseya finished his ten overs with the usual economical 35 runs off him, but for once he also took a wicket. Panyangara returned to bowl at the death, to be treated with reasonable respect – and so did Taylor, a fourth off-spinner. He almost picked up a wicket immediately, as Jones swung him high to deep midwicket, who was just unable to reach the ball in time to complete a catch.
Pietersen reached his fifty off 62 balls, with Jones making a spirited attempt to catch him with two successive leg-side boundaries off Panyangara. His fifty was actually faster than Pietersen’s, coming off 42 balls, and then he celebrated with a huge straight six off Taylor that almost landed on the roof of the four-story stand at the southern end of the ground.
He miscued the next ball towards the midwicket boundary, but three fielders converging on it could not reach it in time. Next over he swung Panyangara high over midwicket for another six, and then edged him for four, overtaking his partner and establishing a new all-time sixth-wicket record partnership for England against all opposition in one-day internationals. Such a slaughter was in complete contrast to the struggles of the previous batsmen.
Panyangara finally broke the stand, Jones holing out on the edge of the midwicket boundary, Masakadza taking the catch. He scored 66 off 46 balls, hitting six fours and two sixes. England were 241 for six in the 48th over, the partnership having added 120 in 13 overs. Panyangara finished his ten-over stint with the rather spoilt figures of three for 61.
This slowed down the scoring rate, as Ashley Giles is not the ideal man to come in with two overs to go, and Pietersen tried to do it all himself without quite being able to summon up the magic. He finished with 77 not out off 76 balls, Giles 3 not out, and the England total was 263 for six, a likely winning score. The only bowlers with anything to remember were Panyangara (three for 61) and Utseya (one for 35 in his 10 overs).
When Zimbabwe replied, England almost took a wicket in the first over. Matsikenyeri slashed Gough straight to Collingwood at backward point, only for the ball to bounce out of his hands. Collingwood’s immediate response was to call to the pavilion for somebody to bring a replacement pair of sunglasses!
James Anderson, with a newly shaven head, bowled from the other end, but after a couple of quiet overs the batsmen began to show confidence. Matsikenyeri especially enjoyed a couple of good drives and a pull for four. Taylor found little opportunity to drive until the eighth over, when Anderson overpitched and he drove him just to the off side of straight to the sightscreen. It was not one of Anderson’s better days, and he was to concede nine wides in the innings.
Anderson finally dismissed Matsikenyeri in the tenth over, though, as the batsmen tried to pull a short ball but miscued so badly that Vaughan at mid-on had the easiest possible catch to take. He made 17 and Zimbabwe were 40 for one.
Two runs later and in the next over, his opening partner Taylor (13) followed him, trying to glance Alex Wharf down the leg side but instead gloving a catch to Jones, the keeper. Two balls later new batsman Mark Vermeulen swatted a ball straight to Pietersen at extra cover and Zimbabwe had slumped to 42 for three in the 11th over.
This brought in Masakadza, to a warm reception, to join Ebrahim – a pairing ideal for consolidation but not for acceleration. Still, Masakadza was immediately off the mark with a single to long leg, and then Ebrahim pulled Wharf to the midwicket boundary.
Masakadza (3) never looked ready for his quick return to the national side in the one-day arena, and was beaten and bowled by a ball from Wharf that came back through the gate; 53 for four in the 13th over.
In Taibu Zimbabwe had a good man for a crisis, but as so often happens Ebrahim struggled to keep the score moving. He scored 12 off 24 balls, but then tried to swing Collingwood over midwicket. The top edge looked to be clearing the field, but Vaughan ran back from mid-on to hold a fine catch over his shoulder. Zimbabwe were 78 for five in the 20th over, and apparently now sliding towards defeat. Except that the exciting Chigumbura was in next.
But this was not Chigumbura’s day. Attempting a cramped pull against Collingwood, he simply skyed a catch about ten metres towards mid-on, which the bowler took easily. He departed for 4; 89 for six in the 24th over.
Taibu quietly ran up 32 through solid batting, but then spoilt it by trying to turn a straight ball from Giles to leg; a leading edge gave the bowler the easiest of return catches and Zimbabwe were 97 for seven in the 27th over.
Without addition new batsman Panyangara (0) went on the slog to a ball from Giles turning away outside the off stump, and the almost inevitable result was a skyed catch to Solanki at midwicket. Still on 97, Ewing, who never looked happy facing 10 balls without scoring, sliced a drive from Collingwood which Anderson, running back and juggling well at mid-off, held well. The stream was becoming a torrent.
The crowd almost erupted when last man Mpofu turned Giles past square leg for a single, and the Zimbabwe total finally moved off 97. Another two singles were squeezed out between Mpofu and Utseya, and the crowd erupted as the total reached 100.
With more than 20 overs to go, the last pair seemed to have set their sights on playing out their full allocation, blocking almost everything but taking the occasional single. For 52 balls they survived, amassing five runs in the process, but finally Mpofu (2) edged Wharf low to Collingwood at third slip and the match was over, Utseya left unbeaten with 2.
Zimbabwe were all out in 36 overs for 102, their second-lowest total against England – the lowest being 92 at Bristol in 2003 – and their defeat by 161 runs was their second greatest in their history. Wharf took four for 24, Collingwood three for 16 and Giles two for 12. It was their 15th successive defeat, and they have still lost every match since the departure of the rebel players.
(Article: Copyright © 2004 John Ward)