In the end, the low-scoring game was closer than it ought to have been, and gamely though Michael Atherton's side bowled and fielded - the bowlers all had a lunchtime session out on the square with their new technical adviser, Ian Botham - you could not help feeling that the home side made a hash of chasing the paltry 153 set them, after England's batsmen gave one of their more careless performances of recent times. Zimbabwe have never won a one-day international batting second and old spectres were obviously raised every time they lost a wicket.
In the end, a skipper's knock by Alistair Campbell, who had earlier damaged both an eye and a finger in a collision with one of his team-mates, saw his side home by two wickets, with just over five overs to spare.
The pitch, although taking the brunt of the criticism with its slow spongy bounce, still had more runs in it and both sides were culpable of some loose strokeplay. For England, some of the errors were inexcusable, and the loss of Crawley, Irani and Mullally in the space of two overs, all to slower deliveries from John Rennie, was the stuff of numbskulls.
That collapse ensured that England did not use up the last 26 balls of their allotted 50 overs. In any standard of cricket, batting crimes do not come more heinous than that, especially when they leave Nasser Hussain stranded on 49.
Coming in at No 5, Hussain was just about the only visiting batsman able to work the ball around without hitting it in the air. A mistake most of his team-mates made with impunity as the Matabeleland duo of John Rennie and Heath Streak took three wickets apiece.
It would be remiss not to give the Zimbabwe bowlers some credit for the visitors' appalling display. They bowled with discipline and cunning, operating a teasing full length outside off-stump. A ploy that nonplussed Atherton, batting at three, who took 25 balls to open his account.
The tactic, at least according to David Lloyd, was that England should bat around Atherton who would then stay in for the remainder of the innings. With the out-of-touch Thorpe at four undone by a beauty from Eddo Brandes, which came back and trimmed the left-hander's off bail, it was a plan more flawed than the local electricity supply, which fused after someone had shoved a brolly through a main cable.
Apart from some general inconvenience, mainly to those with electric beer coolers, it took away all power of authority from the third umpire. With no television pictures to aid decisions, England's skipper survived a run-out decision which Sky's normal feed showed to be comfortably out. It was a let-off Atherton failed to make the most of when he skied a scything mow off the left-arm spinner Grant Flower to mid-on.
Power blackouts were not the only local quirk to emerge from the day and before a ball had been bowled (with white balls) England arrived to find the world's largest sightscreens being given a coat of matt black emulsion. Needless to say, the job was far from finished by the time the game was due to start, and mobile black sightscreens had to be used instead.
England needed to take wickets and it was not until the debutant Chris Silverwood's sixth ball found Grant Flower's leg stump off an inside edge, that they were able to get into the game.
Selected ahead of Andy Caddick, on account of his "rock solid temperament," Silverwood soon followed up by claiming Andy the elder Flower's wicket, when the left- hander's off-side flourish was pouched by Knight diving forward at at extra cover.
David Houghton went next, a loose drive off Gough this time finding Crawley in the covers. When Craig Evans went caught behind, trying to run Gough down to third man, England's stock rose sharply.
Unfortunately, Atherton had to fit in overs from Ronnie Irani, who passed a late fitness test and his off-spinner, Robert Croft, whose first two overs had been to Andy Waller's liking.
Although he has yet to play in a Test match, Waller with 31 caps, is one of Zimbabwe's most experienced one-day batsmen and he played a curious role that flitted from anchor to hitter as the mood took him. His dismissal, run out after a mix up with his partner left the home side dizzying on 97 for 5. A state that must have come perilously close to complete collapse when Mullally removed Guy Whittal and Paul Strang in consecutive balls.
As it was Atherton's gamble to bowl out his three best bowlers fell short, as his opposite number Campbell and chicken farmer Brandes, who clobbered his first ball for six, saw Zimbabwe home to the slurred jubilation of an almost entirely white crowd of around 6,000.
Unless they can turn this tour around soon, they may be consigned to playing beer matches with the Barmy Army, who are needless to say, here on safari.
Zimbabwe won toss
N V Knight lbw b Streak 13
(8 min, 20 balls, 2 fours)
A J Stewart c A Flower b Streak 26
(45 min, 33 balls, 4 fours)
*M A Atherton c sub (A R Whittall)
b G Flower 23
(97 min, 77 balls, 2 fours)
G P Thorpe b Brandes 1
(14 min, 9 balls)
N Hussain not out 49
(126 min, 87 balls, 1 four)
J P Crawley c Campbell b Rennie 10
(23 min, 20 balls, 1 four)
R C Irani c and b Rennie 7
(6 min, 5 balls, 1 four)
A D Mullally c and b Rennie 0
(1 min, 1 ball)
R D B Croft c G Flower b Streak 0
(4 min, 2 balls)
D Gough run out (Streak-A Flower) 9
(13 min, 12 balls)
C E W Silverwood c Houghton b Strang 1
(8 min, 14 balls)
Extras (lb6 w3 nb4) 13
Total (187 min 45.5 overs) 152
Fall: 1-28 (Knight) 2-41 (Stewart) 3-47 (Thorpe) 4-96 (Atherton) 5-124 (Crawley) 6-134 (Irani) 7-134 (Mullally) 8-135 (Croft) 9-150 (Gough) 10- 152 (Silverwood).
Bowling: Brandes 8-2-28-1 (3-1-15-0, 5-1-13-1); Rennie 8-1-27-3 (w2) (6-1-16-0, 2-0-11-3); Streak 9-1-30-3 (nb5 w1) (6-1-15-2, 3-0-15-1); Whittall 5-0-17-0 (nb1) (one spell); Strang 9.5-1-27-1 (7-0-24-0, 2.5-1-3-1); G Flower 6-0-17-1 (one spell).
G W Flower b Silverwood 14
(44 min, 35 balls, 1 four)
A C Waller run out (Hussain-Silverwood) 48
(137 min, 71 balls, 8 fours)
A Flower c Knight b Silverwood 10
(36 min, 25 balls, 1 four)
D L Houghton c Crawley b Gough 2
(17 min, 11 balls)
C N Evans c Stewart b Gough 1
(18 min, 8 balls)
G J Whittall c Stewart b Mullally 13
(33 min, 29 balls, 1 four)
*A D R Campbell not out 32
(77 min, 39 balls, 5 fours)
P A Strang c Stewart b Mullally 0
(1 min, 1 ball)
H H Streak c and b Croft 11
(44 min, 33 balls, 1 four)
E A Brandes not out 8
(16 min, 12 balls, 1 six)
Extras (lb9 w4 nb1) 14
Total (for 8, 216 min, 43.5 overs) 153
Fall: 1-33 (G Flower) 2-58 (A Flower) 3-73 (Houghton) 4-87 (Evans) 5- 97 (Waller) 6-106 (G Whittall) 7-106 (Strang) 8-137 (Streak).
Did not bat: J A Rennie.
Bowling: Mullally 10-2-24-2 (w3) (8-1-20-0, 2-1-4-2); Gough 10-2-31-2 (nb1 w1) (4-0-17-0, 4-2-8-2, 2-0-6-0); Silverwood 10-0-27-2 (6-0-21-2, 4-0-6-0); Croft 5-0-32-1 (1-0-5-0, 1-0-11-0, 3-0-16-1); Irani 6.5-1-25- 0 (4-1-10-0, 1-0-11-0, 1.5-0-4-0); Thorpe 2-1-5-0 (one spell).
Man of the match: A D R Campbell
Zimbabwe won by two wickets.
Umpires: Q J Goosen and R B Tiffin.Reuse content