Thorpe suffers in triumph World Series Cup: Third time successful for exhausted England as the searing he at takes its toll on their top-scoring batsman

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AT the third time of asking, England have beaten Zimbabwe in a one-day match, thanks to a thoroughly professional performance at the Gabba. Excellent bowling and fielding by England left Zimbabwe 26 runs short of a target of 200. Without Graham Th orpe'sgallant 89 in suffocating heat and humidity, England would once again have been in serious danger of being overrun by a makeshift team of farmers and hunters, as their batting coughed and spluttered in furnace-like conditions.

Only 24 of Thorpe's runs came from boundaries. For that, he paid a heavy toll and minutes after he was out, he began vomiting from heat exhaustion. After attempts to reduce his temperature with ice packs, and rehydrate him with fluids, the stricken batsman was taken to hospitalby Dave Roberts, the England physiotherapist. It was thought he would stay in overnight, but he was later discharged. It is not known whether Thorpe will be well enough to travel with the team to Melbourne.

Even before Thorpe's plight, it was clear that England's presence here so soon after a gruelling fortnight of back-to-back Test matches was farcical. With only a day's travelling time separating the frenetic last day of the Sydney Test and yesterday's sapping conditions in Brisbane, there was little time to rest. Atherton admitted that many of other players felt heavy limbed, but the cumulative effect could have pole-axed Thorpe, who complained of feeling "knackered" in Sydney.

England's acceptance of overseas itineraries is the domain of the International committee, headed by Doug Insole. Since the boom in one-day cricket that followed Kerry Packer's circus of the late Seventies, the committee have rarely shown consideration

towards the players' well-being, kowtowing to television, the game's big paymaster.

After the ebb and flow of the Sydney Test, England had every right to be jaded, and it took the lustre away from what was a far more positive England performance than of late. Winning the toss, Atherton had no hesitation in batting despite the nine o'clock start. Early starts can sometimes be a problem if there is dew about, but Gooch's dismissal for a duck to the fourth ball of the day, owed nothing to anything that may have been lurking in the pitch, as he dragged a wide full toss from David Brain back on to his stumps.

Gooch is having a wretched time of it on this tour. His batting lacks balance and he seems incapable of moving his left foot to the pitch of anything wider than off-stump. Leaden-footed is a term that springs to mind, an affliction that also appeared to affect another Mr Gooch: a 33-1 longshot still running in the 3.36 at Randwick racecourse.

Graeme Hick soon followed, edging a cut shot behind off Heath Streak. On the evidence of Hick's performances against his old country, England's gain has not been Zimbabwe's loss. With Atherton still struggling to find his touch, Hick's exit allowed Thorpe to inject some much needed thrust to proceedings, and when the left-armer Brain drifted wide, Thorpe twice clattered him for four.

The pair put on 52 in 90 balls before Atherton played across a straight one from Gary Martin and was lbw. Neil Fairbrother, having flown here from South Africa via London, has seen three continents in the last 10 days but it did not prevent him from applying that deft touch that makes him one of the game's foremost one-day players. Unfortunately, that does not include ambling easy singles and Heath Streak's throw to the keeper, after being referred to the third umpire, found Fairbrother dawdling still inches short.

This was the first of five close calls adjudged by television replay that saw Fairbrother, Steven Rhodes and Iain Butchart all victims of the dreaded red light; However, in all cases but the one which found Phillip DeFreitas not out, they were marginal decisions, and with Stephen Rhodes sent packing with his foot not quite behind the line, Andy Flower was lucky to survive. The replay clearly showed his bat on the line - which is out. At one stage, the Gabba almost resembled Piccadilly circus, the impending flash of a green or red light making the waiting batsman every bit as nervous as pedestrians waiting to cross the road.

After the umpire Darrell Hair's reluctance to use the facilities available in the Sydney Test, technology ran riot at the Gabba, but it did not devalue the game and most of the 9,500 strong crowd seemed to revel in the delayed decisions, the uncertainty of it all adding tension to a low scoring game.

With their most experienced batsman, Dave Houghton, having returned home, Zimbabwe's captain Andy Flower decided to drop down to number four, in order to fill the gap. This broke up a notably successful opening partnership with his brother Grant, based on quick singles.

The net result was that Zimbabwe did not get their usual good start, the big hitting Alistair Campbell skying a lofted drive through frustration as he and Grant Flower got bogged down by some accurate bowling from Darren Gough and DeFreitas. In his firstserious bowl for a month, Joey Benjamin then skidded one through Mark Dekkers' defences. This reunited the Flowers, who quickly put on 40 in 41 balls until, sweeping wildly, Grant gloved a well-taken diving catch to Rhodes off Shaun Udal.

For a while the elder Flower gave his side real hope before he was caught by Rhodes off Gough for a spirited 52. Only a workmanlike 50 from the big-game hunter Guy Whittall delayed the inevitable as Zimbabwe folded like the deckchairs their gaudy shirts seem destined one day to cover. For Atherton, it was a game that England needed to win. "This was an important victory for us because we don't want to be sat on our backsides watching two other side play in the finals. We desperately want to be there ourselves." If Australia beat their A team here in Brisbane, just one more victory by England should see Atherton's team through.

(England won toss)

England G A Gooch b Brain 0

*M A Atherton lbw b Martin 26

G A Hick c A Flower b Streak 8

G P Thorpe c Brain b Strang 89

N H Fairbrother run out 7

J P Crawley lbw b G. Flower 14

S J Rhodes st A. Flower b Dekker 20

D Gough c Campbell b Dekker 4

P A DeFreitas not out 12

S D Udal not out 11

Extras (b4 lb2 w3) 9

Total (for 8, 50 overs) 200

Fall: 1-0 2-20 3-72 4-82 5-107 6-164 7-170 8-182.

Bowling: Brain 8-0-27-1; Streak 7-1-26-1; Whittall 5-0-19-0; Martin 5-1-15-1; Peall 5-0-19-0; Strang 10-0-42-1; G.Flower 3-0-16-1; Dekker 7-0-30-2.

Zimbabwe G W Flower c Rhodes b Udal 19

A D Campbell c Fairbrother b Defreitas 3

M H Dekker b Benjamin 5

*A Flower c Rhodes b Gough 52

G J Whittall c Rhodes b DeFreitas 53

I P Butchart run out 2

G C Martin st Rhodes b Hick 1

P A Strang b Gough 16

D H Brain c Hick b Udal 2

H H Streak not out 9

S G Peall run out 3

Extras (lb7 w2) 9

Total (48.1 overs) 174

Fall: 1-8 2-16 3-56 4-103 5-123 6-124 7-149 8-156 9-169.

Bowling: Gough 9.1-3-17-2; DeFreitas 10-0-28-2; Benjamin 6-0-22-1; Udal 8-0-41-2; Hick 7-1-29-1; Gooch 8-0-30-0.