Stewart century inspires England victory

Hussain's return after injury is overshadowed as opener tames Zimbabwe's bowlers in dress rehearsal for Saturday's one-day final

A fine century from Alec Stewart and three wickets in one over bowled by Graeme Hick were the twin skewers Zimbabwe impaled themselves on here last night, four days before they play England in the final of the Triangular Series at Lord's.

A fine century from Alec Stewart and three wickets in one over bowled by Graeme Hick were the twin skewers Zimbabwe impaled themselves on here last night, four days before they play England in the final of the Triangular Series at Lord's.

As they chased 263 to win, it did not require spotlights to pick out Zimbabwe's culprits and Alistair Campbell, despite a fine 60, had his dabs all over a crime scene that included six spilt catches and two unnecessary run-outs.

England showed that they could accommodate the return of their captain, though not in his normal place in the batting order. By winning their last three games their cricket has developed a bit of a swagger and Nasser Hussain's rehab after cracking his thumb three and a half weeks ago was catered for without upset. The sheer conviction of their cricket is impressive.

Pressure is an insidious force and it can make people do funny things. In the 23rd over, and Hick's fourth, Zimbabwe were 87 for 1, and well in the game having lost Guy Whittall in Andy Caddick's opening spell. By the end of it they were 90 for 4 and struggling.

Zimbabwe are Hick's bunnies and four months ago he took 5 for 33 against them in Harare, his best ever one-day figures. Yesterday he took only two wickets, but as they both came in the same over, and with a run-out to complement them, the effect was almost as decisive.

If Stewart's 143-ball innings had fatigued him he was not showing it. His quick twist and turn to catch Neil Johnson, who had gloved a paddle shot off Hick betrayed a man whose mind and body are unfeasibly alert for a 37-year-old. His next catch a ball later was regulation as Stuart Carlisle reached for an arm ball. Hick's hat-trick did not come to pass, but Campbell inflict the damage for him. Playing the ball to midwicket, he called Murray Goodwin for a quick single, before deciding against it. Having committed himself to the call, Goodwin kept running towards the pavilion as Andrew Flintoff's throw found Hick waiting at the stumps with no batsman in sight.

It was an extraordinary gaffe and Campbell vented his annoyance by momentarily parting company with his bat, helmet and gloves. But if once is unfortunate twice is careless and no sooner had Campbell's red mist settled he did the same thing to Grant Flower, run out by Mark Ealham's throw from deep square after responding to his partner's late call for two.

At this juncture, Zimbabwe were in disarray, a situation that worsened when Craig White removed Andy Flower and Dirk Viljoen with some reverse swing away form the left-handers. Indeed when Campbell sliced White to Hussain at backward point with the score on 172 for 7, the game was as good as up.

But if England cruised to victory for the third match in a row there is still fine tuning to be done. During Hussain's absence Stewart has taken over the captaincy as well as his role as an opening batsman and yesterday's hundred, the first by an England player for 28 matches, had all the Machiavellian intrigue of an endgame chess move by Gary Kasparov.

Although he made a decent fist of things with a bright 34 off 37 balls, Hussain has to bat in the top four or he must bat against type. In fact, he was twice dropped, on seven and 20, trying to force the pace at No 6 with shots he does not normally play.

He is unlikely to get his opening spot back either, especially after the recent success of Stewart and Marcus Trescothick. The Somerset left-hander, virtually stumbled on by the selectors, has been in fine form and a brace of cover-driven fours and an effortless pull for six once again threatened to caste Stewart in the role of spectator.

It might have happened, too, had a bottom edge in the seventh over missed the stumps, but Trescothick's departure for 20, left Stewart contemplating one of his favourite stages and mountain of overs to play with. He did not squander the opportunity, and dove-tailing with the differing styles of Flintoff and Graham Thorpe after Hick had gone for nought the Surrey man reached his third one-day hundred.

Like Hussain, Stewart finds it difficult to slog effectively and prefers to use the pace of the ball to find the boundary, which he did eight times. He is able to improvise by giving himself room, and he was doing as much, when the left-arm spinner Viljoen bowled him with a yorker in the 46th over.

It was with Thorpe that Stewart shared the largest stand (81 in 20 overs) of the innings. If the scoring rate was not electric, Thorpe's ability to nick, nudge and nurdle, singles and so keep the score ticking over, was a marvel and a facet Flintoff should look to add to his own game and he was twice missed trying to give it the kitchen sink.

Both chances should have been snapped up by Andy Flower, but he has not been keeping well and his reticence to attempt the catches spoke of a man short on confidence. In contrast, England's bowlers, after two excellent matches, are brimming with it. Once again, their discipline in making the batsmen work hard for every run paid dividends.

EDGBASTON SCOREBOARD

England won toss

ENGLAND

M E Trescothick b Streak 20 29 min, 20 balls, 2 fours, 1 six ÿA J Stewart b Viljoen 101 183 min, 144 balls, 8 fours A Flintoff c A Flower b Johnson 24 43 min, 28 balls, 4 fours G A Hick lbw b Johnson 0 2 min, 2 balls G P Thorpe b G Flower 33 70 min, 49 balls, 1 four *N Hussain c Viljoen b Whittall 34 50 min, 37 balls, 4 fours C White c Johnson b Streak 21 10 min, 11 balls, 2 sixes M A Ealham not out 9 11 min, 6 balls, 1 four A R Caddick b Streak 1 4 min, 2 balls D Gough not out 2 2 min, 2 balls Extras (lb5,w11,nb1) 17 Total (for 8, 206min, 50overs) 262

Fall: 1-41 (Trescothick), 2-85 (Flintoff), 3-85 (Hick), 4-166 (Thorpe), 5-218 (Stewart), 6-246 (White), 7-251 (Hussain), 8-259 (Caddick).

Did not bat: A D Mullally.

Bowling: Streak 10-0-59-3 (w3) (6-0-29-1, 2-0-13-0, 2-0-17-2); Johnson 7-0-37-2 (w3) (2-0-20-0, 5-0-17-2); Mbangwa 10-0-43-0 (w2) (5-0-23-0, 5-0-20-0); Viljoen 7-0-27-1 (w2) (5-0-17-0, 2-0-10-1); Strang 4-0-20-0 (one spell); Whittall 7-0-31-1 (nb1,w1) (4-0-16-0, 2-0-10-0, 1-0-5-1); G Flower 5-0-40-1 (3-0-18-1, 2-0-22-0).

Progress: 50: 41 min, 52 balls. 100: 92 min, 126 balls. 150: 135 min, 197 balls. 200: 170 min, 250 balls. 250: 197 min, 289 balls.

Stewart: 50: 112 min, 84 balls, 5 fours. 100: 181 min, 142 balls, 8 fours.

ZIMBABWE

N C Johnson c Stewart b Hick 52 G J Whittall c White b Caddick 3 A D R Campbell c Hussain b White 60 S V Carlisle c Stewart b Hick 0 M W Goodwin run out 3 G W Flower run out 9 *ÿA Flower c Stewart b White 4 D P Viljoen c Stewart b White 6 H H Streak c Flintoff b Gough 45 P A Strang not out 7 M Mbangwa not out 5 Extras (b1, lb5, w4, nb6) 16 Total (for 9, 50 overs) 210

Fall: 1-25 (Whittall), 2-87 (Johnson),3-87 (Carlisle), 4-90 (Goodwin), 5-110 (G Flower), 6-123 (A Flower), 7-133 (Viljoen), 8-172 (Campbell), 9-203 (Streak).

Bowling: Caddick 8-3-22-1; Gough 8-1-43-1; Mullally 9-1-37-0; Hick 7-0-37-2; Ealham 10-1-31-0; White 8-0-34-3.

Umpires: M J Kitchen and D J Constant.

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