Ignominious England; belie their propaganda

Cricket: England 137-9 v Zimbabwe

It was meant to be a warm-up tour for next year's Ashes, with England taking both confidence and light relief from the pipsqueaks of Test cricket. Instead, they have been exposed as a woefully lightweight team whose lack of self-belief is clearly at odds with the daily propaganda dished out by their coach, David Lloyd.

Before the match Lloyd maintained Zimbabwe were sure to prepare another slow pitch and play for a draw. He was right: the pitch is slow, but it is England, their lamentable batting performance yesterday plumbing new depths, who will now be seeking the draw.

It is not the first time Lloyd's words have boomeranged back on him, yet even he cannot deny that Boxing Day in Harare will go down as one of England's all-time worst batting performances. It is a list normally restricted to Tests against Pakistan, Australia or the West Indies, and not the greenhorns of world cricket.

On a funereal surface there were none of Curtly Ambrose's snorting throat balls to fend away, nor a succession of Shane Warne's fizzers to cope with. Just some tempting, steady medium-paced bowling on a gremlin-free pitch, from a modest all-rounder called Guy Whittall, a player whose figures of 4 for 12 defied the status of this match and the current standing of England's top order.

Whittall is the cousin of Andy Whittall, Zimbabwe's 12th man and a former captain of Cambridge. That connection has given rise to the pair being known as "Wit" and "Half Wit", a moniker that could safely be applied to the majority of England's batsmen.

After the carnage, Lloyd claimed England had talked long and hard about the qualities needed to put a total together in conditions unsuited to quick scoring, and in particular the dangers of driving off the front foot.

However, to be forewarned is to be forearmed, and if England's previous efforts on this pitch - 24 for 3, 27 for 4 and 24 for 4 - had been anything to go by, they ought to have been etched indelibly into the collective memory.

As they clearly had not, it was not at all surprising that Lloyd had no explanation why, almost to a man, his players had perished to the very shot they had - by consensus - agreed to outlaw.

It did not start badly for England and, having lost the toss, Michael Atherton would not have been unhappy to find his team cruising along at 50 for 1. At that stage, the only man out was Nick Knight and the only batsman who could claim fate had conspired against him after a fine leg- glance off Henry Olonga's loosener was snapped up by Andy Flower behind the stumps.

But if England were quietly satisfied, the well-being was soon to be shattered as Atherton and Alec Stewart drove loosely at full-pitched balls. In the circumstances it was poor batsmanship, particularly as Stewart had just been let-off by Alistair Campbell at first slip after wafting at Heath Streak. It was a miss Zimbabwe's captain soon atoned for in the next over, when Atherton edged a wide one from Whittall.

It was a double breach England never really recovered from as Zimbabwe kept an unrelenting full length, with Streak bowling far better than he did last week. Only Eddo Brandes struggled as the bowling, coupled with some spectacular fielding, choked the England innings.

Graham Thorpe, a man whose form and confidence have bungee-jumped without a harness, was beautifully worked out, with a clip off his legs falling straight to Mark Dekker, cleverly positioned in no-man's land 10 yards away at square-leg.

Having come so close to victory in Bulawayo, England were perhaps guilty of being too anxious on a surface that demanded patience and defiance. Only John Crawley played with the necessary aplomb, waiting steadfastly until the bowlers dropped short enough to pull or cut.

While he and Robert Croft were together, England looked as if they could at least save themselves from the ignominy of the lowest total against Zimbabwe, a record held by Pakistan, who were bowled out for 147 three years ago in Lahore. It is a record that England could yet break.

If there was any sympathy to be extended it was to Craig White, who flew in three days ago and replaced Chris Silverwood, his Yorkshire team-mate in the side. Having excelled in England's A team tour of Australia, White's welcome here - to lightning bolts and someone waving a "White is Shit" T-shirt - was anything but homely.

His lack of recent cricket was also transparent as he scratched at Paul Strang, lucky to survive an lbw appeal as he cut at the googly. In the end he, too, perished trying to drive at Whittall's gentle seam, the slower variations of which accounted for both Croft, caught in the gully, and Mullally, duped into playing early as he had been in the one-day match in Bulawayo.

For once, Lloyd was not guilty of trotting out excuses, even going as far to say that it was "the most depressing batting performance of my time as coach", a performance England's bowlers now have the near-impossible task of repairing.

n Zimbabwe's Heath Streak has been fined 15 per cent of his match fee for an implied criticism of the umpire Ian Robinson after the first Test. Streak said he was fortunate not to have a number of deliveries called as wides as England chased victory on the final day.

DAYS OF WOE

England's 25 worst days in Test cricket

England's collapse yesterday ranks among their poorest performances in a single day, with the weakness of the opposition making it one of the worst ever. Here, in chronological order, are England's 25 worst days since they began playing Test cricket in 1877.

29 August 1882

England v Australia, The Oval

England 77 all out

11 July 1884

England v Australia, Old Trafford

England 95 all out

17 March 1885

Australia v England, Sydney

England 77 all out

28 Jan 1887

Australia v England, Sydney

England 45 all out

17 July 1888

England v Australia,Lord's

England slump from 18 for 3 to 53 all out and are then bowled out for 62

29 Dec 1894

Australia v England, Melbourne

England 75 all out

4 Feb 1895

Australia v England, Sydney

England, bowled out for 65 and 72; lost 17 wickets in less than three hours

1 April 1899

South Africa v England, Cape Town

England 92 all out

1 January 1902

Australia v England, Melbourne

England 61 all out

7 March 1904

Australia v England, Melbourne

England go from 4 for 2 to 61 all out

10 July 1926

England v Australia, Headingley

Australia make 366 for 3 in a day

24 January 1930

New Zealand v England

New Zealand make 339 for 3 in a day

28 June 1930

England v Australia, Lord's

Australia make 404 for 2 in a day

21 July 1934

England v Australia, Headingley

Australia lose one wicket in scoring 455

18 August 1934

England v Australia, The Oval

Australia make 475 for 2 in a day

27 July 1948

England v Australia, Headingley

Australia make 404 for 3 on final day for victory

14 August 1954

England v Pakistan, The Oval

England manage only 130 in their first match against Pakistan

3 January 1959

Australia v England, Melbourne

England 87 all out

9 July 1976

England v West Indies, Old Trafford

England blasted out for 71

14 February 1978

New Zealand v England, Wellington

England make 53 for 8

4 February 1984

New Zealand v England, Christchurch

England bowled out for 82

23 March 1986

West Indies v England, Bridgetown

England slump from 110 for 1 to 189 all out

25 November 1990

Australia v England, Brisbane

England slump from 56 for 3 to 114 all out

30 March 1994

West Indies v England, Trinidad

England, chasing 194, are bowled out for 46

26 December 1996

Zimbabwe v England, Harare

England make 137 for 9.

HARARE SCOREBOARD

Zimbabwe won toss

ENGLAND - First innings

N V Knight c A Flower b Olonga 15

(33 min, 20 balls, 1 four)

*M A Atherton c Campbell b Whittall 13

(90 min, 49 balls, 1 six)

A J Stewart c G Flower b Streak 19

(61 min, 44 balls, 1 four)

N Hussain c A Flower b Streak 11

(70 min, 53 balls, 1 four)

G P Thorpe c Dekker b Streak 5

(36 min, 20 balls)

J P Crawley not out 37

(175 min, 132 balls, 2 fours)

C White c Campbell b Whittall 9

(59 min, 47 balls)

R D B Croft c G Flower b Whittall 14

(55 min, 55 balls, 2 fours)

D Gough b Strang 2

(8 min, 8 balls)

(A D Mullally c and b Whittall 0

(4 min, 2 balls)

P C R Tufnell not out 0

(14 min, 13 balls)

Extras (b1, lb5, w1, nb5) 12

Total (for 9, 309 min, 73 overs) 137

Fall: 1-24 (Knight), 2-50 (Atherton), 3-50 (Stewart), 4-65 (Thorpe), 5-73 (Hussain), 6-94 (White), 7-128 (Croft), 8-133 (Gough), 9-134 (Mullally).

Bowling: Streak 19-4-34-3 (nb2,w1) (4-0-13-0, 10-2-11-3, 5-2-10-0); Brandes 14-5-31-0 (3-0-11-0, 4-0-13-0, 7-5-7-0); Olonga 9-1-23-1 (nb3) (5-0-13- 1, 4-1-10-0); Whittall 13-5-12-4 (4-2-2-1, 5-1-7-1, 4-2-3-2); Strang 18- 7-31-1 (1-0-5-0, 17-7-26-1).

Progress: 50: 79 min, 15.5 overs. Lunch: 63-3 (Hussain 7, Thorpe 5) 25 overs. 100: 229 min, 49.5 overs. Tea: 108-6 (Crawley 23, Croft 2) 55 overs. Bad light stopped play: 4.12pm. Play abandoned:4.45pm.

ZIMBABWE: G W Flower, M H Dekker, *A D R Campbell, D L Houghton, A Flower, A C Waller, G J Whittall, P A Strang, H H Streak, E A Brandes, H K Olonga.

Umpires: K T Francis (Sri Lanka) and R B Tiffin (Zim).

TV Replay Umpire: I D Robinson (Zim).

Match Referee: Hanumant Singh (Ind).

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