Gough's career best confirms revival

Matabeleland 188 & 261 England win by 115 runs
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The preamble is over, and England have Darren Gough to thank for replacing last week's long faces with winning smiles, as Matabeleland were beaten here with 45 minutes to spare. After claiming a career-best 11 for 139 in the match, Gough now looks ever closer to being the strike bowler he was in Australia two years ago, before a broken foot forced a change in action and a loss of form.

It has been a patient haul for him to reassert himself and pull back on the sweater sporting his beloved three lions. Normally as effervescent as liver salts in a bottle of cola, his confidence had waned and he was deliberately overlooked for Test duty last summer: the selectors, telling him to go away and take regular wickets for Yorkshire. He obliged by taking 67 of them, gradually overcoming his injury worries as he did so.

With all that now accomplished, he has begun to bowl with consistent pace again. On a slow and unyielding surface he rapped gloves and helmets, as well as stumps and toes, with a combination of bouncers and yorkers that brought five second-innings wickets to add to the six he took in the first.

"You can always tell when I'm bowling well," Gough said. "I swing the ball out with the new one. It was a good pitch and later on I was trying to get them back, back, back, then fire one up there. The classic one was the Manesh Ranchod dismissal [lbw to an in- dipping yorker for his second duck of the match]. I was very pleased with that."

It was not the only yorker ploy that worked on the day, and after he had Guy Whittall well caught by Andy Caddick at third man, deliberately positioned for the batsman's upper-cut shot over the slips, both Mark Abrams and Andy Whittall succumbed to the ball England's assistant coach likes to call "The old Harry Porker."

However, amongst all the wreckage, and presumably to some consternation to England, Mark Dekker and Heath Streak, who normally bats at No 9 for Zimbabwe, managed to put on 155 for the third wicket, before Streak was bowled off an inside edge by Caddick.

Before that breakthrough, England's attack (missing only the resting Alan Mullally) had looked insipid and it needed a few crafty spells of spin bowling from Robert Croft, who took 4 for 65, to help expose the fault lines in the home side's batting.

More worrying, than the relative strengths of the opposition, however, was that Ronnie Irani managed just 14 balls and is now in some doubt over tomorrow's one-day international. He hurt his back while bowling and will have a fitness test today to see if he can play.

It was Croft, now getting some turn from around the wicket, who eventually removed the left-handed Dekker for 104, a hard-fought hundred that involved three mighty sixes and a ridiculous celebration by a man wearing briefs and bearing a bottle of beer. His demise, lbw playing tamely back to Croft, allowed England in for a swift kill.

Not everyone pulled their weight with the ball and Caddick who bowled well in the first innings, seemed to lacked zip yesterday. He may still be catching up with his team-mates after inheriting flu from his captain when the side arrived 18 days ago.

On the other hand, he has something of a reputation for being insecure and disliking hard work. The latter was alluded to by the England coach, David Lloyd, when he said: "We need some more from Andy Caddick. More pace. It's up to us to get more out of him and for him to get more out of himself."

MATABELELAND - Second Innings

(Overnight: 5 for 0)

G J Whittall c Caddick b Gough 11

M H Dekker lbw b Croft 104

M Ranchod lbw b Gough 0

H H Streak b Caddick 67

W R James c Crawley b Croft 7

M D Abrams lbw b Gough 6

*J A Rennie not out 30

D Vaghmaria c Stewart b Croft 0

A R Whittall b Gough 18

H K Olonga b Gough 4

M Mbangwa c Crawley b Croft 8

Extras (lb3, nb3) 6

Total (92.5 overs) 261

Fall: 1-18, 2-20, 3-176, 4-185, 5-198, 6-204, 7-204, 8-241, 9-249.

Bowling: Gough 24-6-75-5; Caddick 20-7-43-1; Tufnell 20-6-62-0; Irani 2.2-0-7-0; Thorpe 2.4-1-6-0; Croft 23.5-7-65-4.

Umpires: R Tiffin and C Coventry.