ICC claim tour boosts England's reputation

<preform>England 263-6<br> Zimbabwe 102<br> England win by 161 runs</preform>
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The Independent Online

England's controversial tour of Zimbabwe may not have won Michael Vaughan's side many admirers at home, but, according to Ehsan Mani, the president of the International Cricket Council, it has raised their standing among fellow members of the ICC.

England's controversial tour of Zimbabwe may not have won Michael Vaughan's side many admirers at home, but, according to Ehsan Mani, the president of the International Cricket Council, it has raised their standing among fellow members of the ICC.

The England and Wales Cricket Board's status amongst the international cricket community reached an all-time low after England refused to play a qualifying match in Zimbabwe during the 2003 World Cup.

Mani made these comments during a brief visit to Harare, where he yesterday watched England thrash Zimbabwe by 161 runs. The ICC president heaped praise on David Morgan, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, for the role he played in handling this contentious and complicated affair.

"David Morgan has been very impressive in the way he has handled this issue," said Mani. "He has been honest and frank with everyone even though he has had a lot of domestic pressure at home."

During his time in Zimbabwe, Mani will also hold a meeting with Vaughan's squad. "I want to find out how they have found cricket here in Zimbabwe," he said. "I want to hear what they have to say. I felt it was important for me to be here because there have always been concerns about this tour and I wanted to see it for myself."

On the field here yesterday, England's opposition at the Harare Sports Club may have been weak but there was something special about Kevin Pietersen's batting during his unbeaten innings of 77.

Andrew Flintoff and Piet-ersen batting at five and six for England in limited-over cricket? England supporters will have to wait until next summer to witness this mouth-watering proposition, after Pietersen was overlooked for England's seven one-day internationals against South Africa in January and February. But it is only a matter of time before these two destructive batsmen combine to take apart bowling attacks.

Pietersen struck four thunderous boundaries and two huge sixes during his 95 minutes at the crease. One of the sixes was hit so hard that it bounced 40 yards back on to the field of play after hitting a wall at the top of a stand behind the bowler.

The powerful right-hander received wonderful support from Geraint Jones - who scored a career-best 66 - and it was largely because of the blistering 85-ball partnership of 120 between this pair that England trounced Zimbabwe by 161 runs. This victory takes Michael Vaughan's side into a 2-0 lead in the four-match series.

England's selectors will have enjoyed watching the 24-year-old South Africa-raised batsman, but they also know his arrival will lead to a reorganisation of the batting order. England's middle order - Vaughan at three, Andrew Strauss at four, Flintoff at five, Paul Collingwood at six and Jones at seven - looked pretty solid during the Champions' Trophy in September but it must change - Pietersen is too good to leave out.

In order to accommodate Hampshire's winter signing from Nottinghamshire, England would need to drop one of these five. But this is highly unlikely and a more realistic option is for Strauss or Vaughan to move back to the top of the order, where they would open with Marcus Trescothick.

England's day began with the team witnessing their first opposition from Zimbabweans to this tour. England's 14-man squad were gathering outside the hotel when three black protesters walked to the side of the team coach with a placard. It read: "No Justice. No Cricket. Free Roy Bennett."

Roy Bennet is a white member of the opposition party, who was sentenced to 15 months' hard labour for allegedly pushing a government MP during a debate. Yesterday's protest lasted a minute before security guards asked them to move, which they politely did.

England's batting, until Pietersen and Jones came together, was unimpressive. Tinashe Panyangara, an exciting young fast bowler, dismissed Ian Bell and Vaughan in his opening spell and it took a 63-run partnership between Vikram Solanki and Strauss to settle matters down. But these two, along with Collingwood, fell before the end of the 35th over and England, on 121-5, were in trouble.

But then Pietersen and Jones began to gorge themselves. For 39 overs Zimbabwe had competed well, only to see it all disappear in an 11-over spell which conceded 123 runs.

Zimbabwe started well against Darren Gough and James Anderson but once Stuart Matsikenyeri top-edged a pull to mid-on their innings fell apart. Tatenda Taibu attempted to give his side's total an air of respectability but Alex Wharf and Collingwood took seven easy wickets and the hosts fell to the second heaviest defeat in their 271-game history.

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