Streak brings Zimbabwe in from the cold

Zimbabwe 395; Sussex 179-4 <i>Match drawn</i>
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The Independent Online

As preparations go, Zimbabwe's final work-out before Thursday's first Test against England could have been better.

As preparations go, Zimbabwe's final work-out before Thursday's first Test against England could have been better.

On a miserable day and in front of a handful of spectators, conditions were far removed from those they may encounter at Lord's in three days. Here at Hove, it was all about practice for the tourists. Wrapped up in their sweaters and looking to a man a stone heavier than they actually are, Heath Streak's side tried to make the most of the cold and inclement weather. Indeed, such was Zimbabwe's desperation to keep warm and maintain a certain edge to their cricket, noise levels were taken to an almost ridiculous level, principally by their first-innings centurion Mark Vermeulen.

The 48.1 overs Zimbabwe spent in the field, before play was abandoned at 5.25pm, served its purpose for the tourists, in that it enabled Streak, the visitor's captain and leading bowler, to get twelve useful overs in. Streak's two spells, either side of lengthy breaks for rain, not only proved he has recovered from the back spasm which prevented him from bowling more than two overs in last week's match at Worcester but how important he is to his team's attack.

Streak gives Zimbabwe control and a cutting edge, especially if there is lateral movement in the pitch and it was a leg-cutter which found the outside edge of Richard Montgomerie's bat and carried to second slip. The fast bowler would have had a couple more victims had the hands of his slip fielders been warm and accommodating rather than cold and hard.

After Zimbabwe had lost their last three wickets for only 21 runs in the morning session, Sussex's batsmen looked in little trouble before Streak entered the attack. Any doubts that his back was still troubling him were dispelled when he produced an athletic piece of fielding to run out Michael Yardy in his follow through.

Murray Goodwin, the former Zimbabwe batsman, showed little sympathy for his old team-mate Sean Ervine as he struggled running down the slope. Whether they were no-balls or legitimate, he struck them to the boundary and 19 runs came off one over. Ervine was quickly replaced by Andy Blignaut, who proceeded to send Goodwin's off stump cart-wheeling towards the slips.

Bas Zuiderent, a member of the Dutch World Cup squad, slogged Ray Price for a straight six in a good-looking fifty but he succumbed the ball after reaching his half century to Ervine, who had at last found a rhythm.

"It was a bit cold but at least we got some cricket in for the bowlers," was Geoff Marsh, the Zimbabwe coach's summary of the day's play. "Streaky got in twelve good overs and it is always better practice out in the middle than in the nets. We have had some good practice. Now we have to perform in the hot house." And talking about Zimbabwe's final XI for Lord's, Marsh said, "Our side is pretty much fixed. We will play our four quicks and a spinner; Ray Price will definitely play. The guys are ready for the Test. Playing England at Lord's is always special."