Cricket: Roses pair put Zimbabwe under pressure

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England A 383 & 310-6 dec Zimbabwe A 223 & 112-3

MICHAEL VAUGHAN and Andy Flintoff put England in a commanding position on the fourth day of the second A Test at the Queens Club yesterday.

Lancashire's Flintoff hit a lusty 88 and was an able side-kick to his captain as the Yorkshireman who stroked his way to a splendid century.

The pair helped England forge a lead of 470 before Vaughan declared leaving Zimbabwe having to survive a minimum of 145 overs to avoid defeat. At the close of play, they had reached 112 for 3.

The situation at the start of play was ideal for the two overnight batsmen, and Flintoff providing some rich entertainment as he and Vaughan went along at more than six runs an over to add 153 runs for the fourth wicket.

In one over from Bryan Strang, Flintoff hit a six, carried over the line by long-on, a four which landed on the boundary board, a straight four and a final six on to the terracing way behind long-on.

Vaughan also picked up the six-hitting habit, reaching his century with two swept sixes off the leg-spinner Adam Huckle in the space of three balls.

After Flintoff was well caught by Strang at long-off Vikram Solanki joined Vaughan and, although in distinct contrast to Flintoff, he kept up the tempo. He played some exotic strokes in doing so, with his powerful wrists sending the ball to some unlikely quarters of the ground.

Vaughan's innings ended on 131 when he was caught at long-on after a stay of five hours. He faced 219 balls, hitting 12 fours and three sixes.

Graeme Swann hinted that more of the same might follow until he was out on the stroke of lunch, leaving Solanki and Chris Read to bat for 17 minutes after the interval before the declaration came.

Zimbabwe needed to preserve their wickets, but in the third over Craig Wishart received a delivery from Jason Lewry which popped off his boot and then, as he went through with the intended drive, saw the ball loop to the left of Mal Loye at mid-on. Loye looked like a goalkeeper making a save in the top left-hand corner as he held a two-handed catch.

Trevor Madondo then put up the shutters and made a hard-fought 57 before he was caught by Solanki at slip, playing forward to Swann.

Swann then trapped Guy Whittall lbw, but Steve Gripper was still there at the close with 20 runs chiselled from 61 overs, along with Stuart Carlisle.

Vaughan, while happy with his own form, played tribute to Flintoff's innings. "He makes me look very feeble when I'm at the other end," he said. "He hits it that far and I'm just trickling it to cover for one."

Fourth day; England A won toss

ENGLAND A - First Innings 383 (M B Loye 133, V S Solanki 65, D L Maddy 64; A R Whittall 4-88, B C Strang 4-107).

ZIMBABWE A - First Innings 223 (A M Blignaut 58, D P Viljoen 57; G P Swann 4-52).

ENGLAND A - Second Innings

(Overnight: 122 for 3)

*M P Vaughan c Viljoen b Strang 131

A Flintoff c Strang b A R Whittall 88

V S Solanki not out 25

G P Swann lbw b Strang 7

C M W Read not out 8

Extras (b8 nb3) 11

Total (for 6 dec, 79.5 overs) 310

Fall (cont): 4-243 5-277 6-298

Did not bat: D A Cosker, J D Lewry, S J Harmison.

Bowling: Strang 27-6-99-3; Blignaut 5-2-31-0; G J Whittall 10-5-25-0; A R Whittall 22-3-82-3; Huckle 13-3-60-0; Viljoen 2.5-0-5-0.

ZIMBABWE A - Second Innings

T R Gripper not out 20

C B Wishart c Loye b Lewry 0

T N Madondo c Solanki b Swann 57

G J Whittall lbw b Swann 16

F V Carlisle not out 15

Extras (lb2 nb2) 4

Total (for 3, 61 overs) 112

Fall: 1-1 2-72 3-94.

To bat: D P Viljoen, C P Gurr, *A R Whittall, B C Strang, A M Blignaut, A G Huckle.

Bowling: Lewry 11-6-20-1; Harmison 10-5-23-0; Flintoff 7-3-11-0; Swann 16-5-45-2; Cosker 14-9-9-0; Vaughan 3-2-2-0.

Umpires: G R Evans and E J Gilmour.