Cricket: England suffer another hangover

Zimbabwe 200 England 179-7 Zimbabwe win on higher run-rate
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The Independent Online
The new year may have begun, but for England, the hangover was of a distinctly 1996 vintage as they lost their second one-day game in a row to Zimbabwe, Paul Strang taking 3 for 24 to lead the home side to victory and their first series win at international level. The victory was richly deserved as England once again capitulated under pressure.

In stark contrast, Strang, an oasis of cool in the cauldron, reeled off his quota of nine overs consecutively. Each one including a pearl, or a time bomb, depending on where your allegiances lay, as England lost control. It was a spectacle that the England coach, David Lloyd, had strong opinions about in the press conference afterwards.

"It was a game that was there to be won, and we were'nt up to it," a flabbergasted Lloyd said. "We put pockets of play together, but there is no consistency. It just won't do and we need concentration and commitment every ball. They've got committed players who are up for the game and they fully deserved their success.''

When faced with the mediocre, England, appear to struggle far more than any other side in the world, and this was the fourth time out of five that England have lost to Zimbabwe in one-day cricket. It is difficult to discern any kind of pattern when England are in this mood, except that each loss, bar the one in Bulawayo, has come after chasing a moderate total.

For the capacity crowd of 8,000, however, it was a thrilling and ultimately satisfying match, though one made more so by England's inability to keep a fairly unchallenging run-rate of 4.4 ticking over in the middle of their innings, after rain had reduced the original total of 200, to 185 off 42 overs before the start of England's innings.

Curiously, the figure was only reached after consultation with the new Duckworth-Lewis table for rain-reduced targets. The method was being tried here for the first time and formulated a final target some 16 runs higher than the previous method of using runs per over. The final irony was that although Zimbabwe technically beat England by five runs on a faster scoring rate, they actually scored their runs more slowly.

For Michael Atherton's team only Alec Stewart and John Crawley showed the range and confidence of stroke needed to hit the accurate Zimbabwe bowling from its well-worn groove. Stewart, in particular, was in storming mood after Nick Knight had gone for a duck, the left-hander making rare contact with a delivery after a bout of fresh-air swipes had sapped his strength.

Striking the ball cleanly, the Surrey captain made the most of the fielding restrictions in place for the first 15 overs by going over the infield. The runfest ended when he delicately guided a ball from Guy Whittall straight into the keeper's gloves.

At that point Crawley took over, striking Eddo Brandes for a massive six over midwicket. Like Stewart, Crawley is in prime form, something that cannot be levelled at the remainder of England's top order, and in particular at their captain, who came in at No 5, following the end of Nasser Hussain's scratchy knock.

Atherton did not play badly, though early on he grimaced as if every ball was a pin being stuck into some effigy of him being held by his detractors. His 25 off 39 balls did not set his team back as Ronnie Irani later did when he took 19 balls to score five runs. That knock was ended by the cardinal sin of being stumped off Strang as he tried to launch the leg- spinner on to the club-house roof instead of the safer shot of trying to drag him to leg.

However, it was Crawley's dismissal, unluckily stumped in the 38th over, after he had squeezed a ball from Strang on to his boot and through to an alert Andy Flower that started alarm bells ringingas 23 runs were required from the last three overs.

That finally became 19 from 12 balls, and 16 from six, as Streak and then John Rennie, prevented the England win by bowling a series of low full tosses and yorkers, balls that England's batsmen were unable to get the necessary leverage to hit the boundaries needed.

But if England's batsmen had squandered an opportunity their bowlers were almost as guilty, allowing Zimbabwe to score 200 after reducing them to 38 for 4 with Darren Gough and Alan Mullally both taking two wickets apiece.

That, however, was before England handed their opponents two extra overs in the first 15 as well as a dozen runs through no-balls and wides.

Gough was particularly culpable, especially in his first spell, when he tried to bowl his whole repertoire every over; his penchant for the spectacular allowing his opponents the vital oxygen of easy runs, when a more disciplined approach would have given England a far easier total to chase.

The match referee, Hanumant Singh, was less impressed by the victorious Zimbabwe side, issuing a severe reprimand to Campbell, Andy Flower and Craig Evans for excessive appealing.

SCOREBOARD FROM HARARE

England won toss

ZIMBABWE

G W Flower c Hussain b Gough 4

(16 min, 10 balls)

A J Waller b Mullally 0

(4 min, 5 balls)

*A D R Campbell c Stewart b Gough 14

(37 min, 17 balls, 2 fours)

D L Houghton c Croft b Mullally 5

(12 min, 9 balls, 1 four)

A Flower c Stewart b Mullally 63

(173 min, 114 balls, 4 fours)

C N Evans lbw b Croft 32

(64 min, 50 balls, 4 fours)

G J Whittall run out (Hussain) 14

(31 min, 26 balls, 1 six)

P A Strang c Atherton b Croft 1

(4 min, 6 balls)

H H Streak not out 43

(61 min, 53 balls, 4 fours)

E A Brandes c Atherton b Gough 0

(2 min, 2 balls)

J A Rennie b Gough 0

(2 min, 3 balls)

Extras (lb11, w10, nb3) 24

Total (208 min, 48.5 overs) 200

Fall: 1-2 (Waller), 2-14 (G Flower), 3-26 (Houghton), 4-38 (Campbell), 5-97 (Evans), 6-125 (Whittall), 7-126 (Strang), 8-200 (A Flower), 9-200 (Brandes).

Bowling: Mullally 9-1-29-3 (w2) (5-0-15-2, 2-1-5-0, 2-0-9-1); Gough 8.5- 1-43-4 (w4) (5-1-21-2, 3-0-22-0, 0.5-0-0-2); Silverwood 6-0-30-0 (nb3, w4) (one spell); White 10-1-39-0 (7-1-22-0, 3-0-17-0); Croft 10-2-33-2; Irani 5-0-15-0 (one spell each).

50: 59 min, 75 balls. 100: 116 min, 153 balls. 150: 171 min, 241 balls. 200: 202 min, 289 balls.

A Flower 50: 154 min, 102 balls, 3 fours.

ENGLAND

N V Knight c Houghton b Brandes 0

(11 min, 10 balls)

A J Stewart c A Flower b Whittall 41

(55 min, 37 balls, 6 fours)

J P Crawley st A Flower b Strang 73

(140 min, 109 balls, 4 fours, 1 six)

N Hussain lbw b Whittall 7

(41 min, 18 balls)

*M A Atherton c Whittall b Strang 25

(38 min, 39 balls, 1 four)

R C Irani st A Flower b Strang 5

(24 min, 19 balls)

C White lbw b Streak 4

(16 min, 6 balls)

R D B Croft not out 10

(15 min, 12 balls, 1 four)

D Gough not out 2

(7 min, 2 balls)

Extras (b2 lb5 w5) 12

Total (for 7, 177 min, 42 overs) 179

Fall: 1-1 (Knight), 2-67 (Stewart), 3-95 (Hussain), 4-137 (Atherton), 5-157 (Crawley), 6-165 (Irani), 7-169 (White).

Did not bat: C E W Silverwood, A D Mullally.

Bowling: Brandes 6-2-25-1 (one spell); Rennie 5-0-26-0 (w1) (4-0-18-0, 1-0-8-0); Streak 8-0-41-1 (w2) (5-0-25-0, 3-0-16-1); Whittall 8-0-30-2 (w1); Evans 2-0-6-0 (w1); Strang 9-0-24-3; G W Flower 4-0-20-0 (one spell each).

50: 45 min, 66 balls. 100: 107 min, 150 balls. 150: 118 min, 221 balls.

Crawley 50: 101 min, 84 balls, 2 fours, 1 six.

Umpires: G R Evans and I Robinson.

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