Champions Trophy

Collingwood completes a cool dispatch

Zimbabwe outclassed, outplayed and out of their depth as England move on to the real test

England duly dispatched Zimbabwe yesterday. There was no undue haste, no unnecessary fuss, no meaningless all-time world records created, nothing at all to get excited about.

England duly dispatched Zimbabwe yesterday. There was no undue haste, no unnecessary fuss, no meaningless all-time world records created, nothing at all to get excited about.

A bunch of trained professionals methodically if not flawlessly overwhelmed a group of well-intentioned enthusiasts. It was not exactly the moment that the Champions Trophy took off.

The result and the mismatch went according to the preordained script. Only the manner in which they were shaped was slightly less predictable. On the first rain-curtailed day, England's batting was defective, with just a hint of a superior swagger about it, but they rectified that yesterday by going on to make their highest one-day score against Zimbabwe. Paul Collingwood, the type of player who would stay unsung even if a full-scale musical were written about him, made a diligent and increasingly rapid unbeaten 80 from 93 balls, the 45 runs he made yesterday coming from only 37 balls. He was rightly man of the match for the fifth time in his international career.

The 152-run margin of victory, also England's biggest against Zimbabwe, might have been greater had they held all their catches. It was not quite slipshod, but it was a reminder of the work to be done. There are batsmen in this tournament who will not give second chances, whereas it was difficult to avoid the feeling that Zimbabwe's might have offered two, three, four or five and gone on offering until one was taken.

All that is left for England to do now to reach the semi-finals of this mini-World Cup in their own country is to beat Sri Lanka on Friday. Sri Lanka, who first play Zimbabwe on Tuesday, have won 16 of their last 17 matches. This makes them a different proposition, but a seaming pitch in the English autumn might render them less effective than they would be, say, on a slow turner in Colombo in high, humid summer. England would like to win the toss and bowl.

Ideally, that is what they would wish to have done against Zimbabwe, but it did not matter much. Here were a bunch of players as short of international class for the moment, and probably long into the future, as the earth is distant from the sun. Eight of them are 21 or under. Whatever their earnest protestations, most of them will be aware that they have been pitched into the team only because of the dispute between the Zimbabwean Cricket Union and 15 senior players. However that is resolved - and an ICC inquiry will report in mid-October - those men are probably lost to international cricket for good.

The new team have to get on with it. Tatenda Taibu, their 21-year-old captain, who made a limited but gritty 40 yesterday, thinks it will take four years for them to start winning. But in truth, they may become so scarred by constant beatings that it will need at least another generation for Zimbabwe to be competitive.

England are playing five one-day matches in Zimbabwe in November. Under ICC regulations they have no choice but to tour, and because Michael Vaughan's England are a genuine team with a sincere collective responsibility not to be found in most government cabinets, there are unlikely to be withdrawals on moral grounds. Although there is the distinct possibility that Andrew Flintoff and Stephen Harmison will be rested for greater trials ahead, it is otherwise likely to be a case of one in, all in.

There is still a chance that the 12-day tour will be called off. If the racism allegations are proven, the ICC must be seen to act. It is whispered that some of the evidence so far given to the inquiry supports the charges, but the legal bods who will deliver a verdict may interpret it differently. The truth remains that Zimbabwe's impact on cricket is completely at odds with their ability.

Almost the best that can be said about them is that they refused to be intimidated by England on the first day, and took some corking catches. But there was always a suspicion that it was a hanging on to the opposition's coat-tails type of defiance. They were hapless yesterday as Collingwood, first with Geraint Jones and then with Ashley Giles, took them apart, mostly with forceful running and placement rather than big hitting.

Tinashe Panyangara, an 18-year-old swing bowler of some promise, conceded 86 runs in his 10 overs and immediately entered the top 10 of least economical bowling spells in sixth place. It is to be hoped that this sort of treatment will not arrest his development; earlier this year in the Under-19 World Cup, Panyan-gara took 6 for 31 against Australia to propel Zimbabwe to an astonishing win.

A target of 300 was completely out of Zimbabwe's scope. They can take some heart from the three men who reached double figures, the worthy Taibu as well as Vusimuzi Sibanda, who looked well ordered, and Elton Chigumbura, who finished on 42 not out from only 47 balls.

Darren Gough claimed the first two wickets, and the rest of the damage was shared around. Only Alex Wharf went wicketless, and he bowled too short and with extreme indifference in conceding 45 runs in seven overs. But it would be unfair to heap derision on him for a below-par performance, just as it was misguided to suggest that he had taken to international cricket as to the manor born when he took three quick wickets on his debut a fortnight ago.

Today's match in the competition sees South Africa attempt to end a losing sequence of 10, which they should do against Bangladesh. But it is later in the week that the Champions Trophy gets real for all concerned.

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