The overnight pair Michael Vaughan (78) and Mal Loye (90) set the tone for a determined rearguard action, and the captain's was the only wicket to fall before lunch after the pair had begun 111 behind with nine wickets intact and a minimum of 97 overs to be bowled on the last day of four.
Vaughan curbed his natural aggression and fell only after four and a half hours at the crease, when he drove at and was caught behind off a delivery from off-spinner Dan Peacock.
Half of the first 30 overs of the day were maidens, and Loye and Matthew Windows (66) shared a third-wicket stand of 125 in 58 overs with a mixture of necessary but dull defence and occasional flurries of activity.
Loye was not afraid to hit the bad ball over the infield, while Windows struck what he claims to be his first six in first class cricket when he lifted a full toss from Dirk Viljoen over the midwicket boundary.
Loye had hit three sixes and nine fours in his 282-ball innings when he was beaten in the flight and drove a return catch to Peacock when within reach of the century he deserved.
He acknowledged afterwards that he could not be as positive as usual but needed to apply himself to the situation.
"At the start we decided that we had to bat all day, and it was a good opportunity to get some practice in as well," he said. "The Zimbabweans were giving me a bit of strife about just padding the ball away, but there was not really much else I could do.
"As soon as Michael Vaughan got out it was up to Matthew Windows and me to stay there for a good session because after us there were a few strokemakers who find it difficult to hold themselves - so it was up to us to battle it out."
Left-arm spinner Grant Flower tried all he knew to part Loye and Windows but spent a lot of time bowling outside leg stump, and the pair were unsurprisingly content to kick the ball away.
Windows followed Loye from the fray after only two more runs had been added, smartly taken by Grant Flower at midwicket.
After that, Andrew Flintoff aimed a few positive blows before being caught by a man positioned for the job on the boundary - a repeat of his first- innings dismissal.
Graeme Swann again played positively in the knowledge that he was making the game safe, and although both he and Chris Read fell before the agreed close England had put 101 runs of clear water between themselves and the Zimbabweans when the draw was conceded.Reuse content