Thursday, June 26, 2003

A fine innings from Grant Flower

Okay, England have just played a test series against Zimbabwe, in which Zimbabwe were absolutely thrashed. Then, England played a one day series against Pakistan, a much better rated side, and played well to win the series. Today, England played Zimbabwe in the first match of a triangular one day series that also includes South Africa. It should be a doddle for England, right.

Well, no. Before we start, it is worth looking at the Zimbabwe's history of playing one day internationals.

Zimbabwe played their first one day international in the World Cup in 1983, when they played Australia in the opening match. Amazingly, they won the match, a result that cost Australia a place in the semi-finals of that tournament. (Australia found this deeply embarassing, and have not taken Zimbabwe lightly again. As a consequence, Australia have won all of the 19 games they have played against Zimbabwe since). After that game, Zimbabwe lost their next 18 one day internationals. They did not play England until the 1992 World Cup, and their first game against England was their next win. This victory was a major factor in Zimbabwe being granted test status later that year.

Rather than spurring England on to a lot of victories, as had happened with Australia's 1983 loss to Zimbabwe, this loss appeared to have really spooked England, and they managed to lose five of their next seven matches against Zimbabwe. After that, England got their act together, and going into today's game, England's overall record against Zimbabwe was 15 wins and 7 losses. However, there has always been a feeling that England have a certain dodginess against Zimbabwe.

And so it turned out today. Zimbabwe sent England in. England got off to a reasonable start, but some good bowling by Heath Streak in particular reduced England to 6/144. Clarke and Read managed to score a few more runs, but England were bowled out for 191. Flintoff's 53 was the top score. Not a very good effort.

Zimbabwe only needed to bat decently to win, but on this tour so far they have not managed to bat decently. And at the start they didn't appear to be batting decently, slumping to a dreadful 4/15. But the very experienced Grant Flower was then batting. While not the world class player his brother is, Flower is a quality international class player, and he played very sensibly today, scoring at the right run rate without attempting to do anything silly. Stuart Matsikenyeri did a good job of staying with him, before being out for 44 to a rash shot with the score on 111. Heath Streak was out shortly afterwards, and England again looked like winning. However, Sean Ervine did a very good job of sticking with Streak, and the two players got Zimbabwe home, with four wickets and two overs to spare. Grant Flower ended up with 96 not out.

I have very mixed feelings about the Zimbabwe cricket team being in England. I think the tour should have been cancelled due to the clear political interference in the selection of the team. However, the tour so far must have been pretty demoralising for the Zimbabwean cricketers. Today was a good win, and I am sure it makes them feel a little better.

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