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At Albury; 18 March 1992. ZIMBABWE 134 (D L Houghton 29; I T Botham 3/23, R K Illingworth 3/33). ENGLAND 125 (A J Stewart 29; E A Brandes 4/21). Zimbabwe won by 9 runs [full scorecard].

This was the first time the two teams had ever met in a match, Zimbabwe having played all the other Test teams at least once before meeting England. At last Zimbabwe found themselves playing on a pitch that put themselves and their opponents on even terms. The slow Albury pitch suited their medium-fast seam attack, as well as giving slow turn to the spinners; the bounce was low and variable, the pitch was two-paced, the ball was holding up and run-scoring was difficult. Overall it was a highly unsuitable pitch for any match. The Albury ground is very large, and this made it difficult to hit boundaries, particularly on one side.

England at this stage were, along with New Zealand, the most successful team in the World Cup. They had won five of their matches and lost only one, the clash against New Zealand, and so were certain of their place in the semi-finals. In view of the comparative records of the two teams, the Zimbabweans did not think they could realistically hope to win this match. According to Malcolm Jarvis, at the team talks at each match until now the theme had been, 'We can beat this team.' Before the England match it was rather, 'Let's see how long we can last.'

Zimbabwe chose their most experienced team for this match. It was anticipated that for many of them it would be their last opportunity to play in a World Cup match and, with nothing to lose, the gesture was made to include them all as the youngsters would live to play another day.

Zimbabwe were put in to bat, Andy Pycroft thinks because England thought they could bowl them out and then score the runs easily. They found it difficult to get the score moving and did not bat well; part of the problem was that they had no idea what target they should aim for in these conditions and were looking towards scoring 180 or 200, which was always going to be unlikely. It was in their favour that the pitch deteriorated as the match progressed, and it became harder all the time to get the ball away for runs. Even in these circumstances the batting was poor, and Zimbabwe looked certain to finish their campaign on a miserable note and without a point.

Dave Houghton played the best innings, dragging the team out of the depths of 30 for three, but even he never felt settled or able to master the conditions. He was eventually out trying to pull Gladstone Small, but the ball came off the splice and he was caught at midwicket.

Malcolm Jarvis went in to bat at number eleven and he recalls Ian Botham from slip telling him not to get out now, as that would mean that England would have to go in and bat before lunch! He didn't last long, but the match authorities decided to take an extended lunch to fit in with the afternoon television coverage. The Zimbabweans were agreeable, so they had boomerang throwers and other sideshows to entertain the crowd of over five thousand.

Their eventual total of 134 was actually their lowest total in their twenty one-day internationals to date. Between innings, Dave Houghton remembers telling his team, 'There are eight or nine thousand people out there, and we have to go out and make this match last the full distance to entertain the public.'

Former England opener Geoff Boycott was commentating on this match, and at lunchtime he told Dave Houghton that this had been the poorest display of batting he had ever seen in one-day cricket, and that England would now show them how to do it with a clinical and methodical performance to pass their score. Houghton felt that the pitch was much more difficult to bat on than any of the commentators realised. After the match was over, the calls went up from the Zimbabwean dressing room, calling for Boycott, who remained discreetly absent! Mike Gatting was another who had to eat his words after similar comments. Kevin Duers remembers talking to Richard Illingworth during the lunch interval and telling him that 134 was a good score on a pitch like that.

Eddo Brandes began with a brilliant spell of bowling, taking four wickets to break the back of the England innings in an unbroken spell. He conceded only 21 runs, of which eight came in one over: an outside edge through the slips and an inside edge past leg stump by Ian Botham. Although he had not been in his best form for most of the tournament, he now bowled at his fastest, but was accurate and moved the ball well off the seam. Kevin Arnott gives credit for this to John Traicos, who took Brandes aside in the nets and spent a great deal of time straightening out his bowling. Brandes himself records how he had bowled badly against Australia and following that practised bowling at a target with Traicos.

Graham Gooch was first to go, to the first ball of the innings as he shuffled across his stumps and tried to work a low inswinging full toss away on the leg side, to be late on his stroke, surprised by pace, and adjudged lbw. Then came a respite, as Botham and Lamb put on 32 together. Brandes dismissed Lamb, who had snicked him for four; annoyed, Brandes bowled a bouncer and Lamb mistimed a pull to loop a catch to mid-on. Lamb had generally been batting well and looked the most comfortable of the England batsmen during that afternoon.

When Ali Shah came on to bowl, replacing Malcolm Jarvis, he immediately had Ian Botham well caught at the wicket by Andy Flower standing up to the stumps, although some suspected it was an incorrect decision. Andy Pycroft, though, says that Botham had snicked a catch behind earlier in his innings, had not walked and been given not out. Brandes then bowled out Robin Smith and his old schoolmate Graeme Hick in quick succession. Smith was bowled through the gate playing the wrong line to an off-cutter, and Hick beaten by sheer pace, playing over the top of a yorker. England were astonishingly 43 for five.

Shortly afterwards Brandes finished his spell, having bowled all ten overs without a rest and broken the back of the England innings. Even now the Zimbabweans did not entertain any real hopes of winning the match. Neil Fairbrother and Alec Stewart then dug in, adding 52 together for the sixth wicket, and it looked as if England were going to get home after all.

Even now Zimbabwe were doing all the attacking, though, and both batsmen found it difficult to keep the score moving, even the usually free-scoring Fairbrother. Their partnership lasted more than 25 overs, at a rate of just two runs per over, and they became concerned that they were falling behind the required run rate, even with a target of only 135. John Traicos and Ali Shah, the slowest bowlers in the team, were mainly responsible, bowling their 20 overs for only 33 runs. On that pitch their slower pace made it more difficult than ever for the batsmen to get the ball off the square, and they were also getting turn from the pitch.

Finally Shah broke through, dismissing Stewart, superbly caught by Andy Waller diving low in the covers as he checked a drive. It was now that the Zimbabweans suddenly realised that the required run rate was rising all the time and there were only four wickets left. Suddenly victory seemed to become a possibility after all.

Iain Butchart followed this up by dismissing Phil DeFreitas and Fairbrother in quick succession, both caught at the wicket. DeFreitas tried to cut one that did bounce and was caught off the top edge, while Fairbrother tried to pull and deflected the ball off his glove down the leg side. Illingworth and Small ground out 16 runs together, but the pressure was growing, as 23 were needed from the last four overs. Then they had a mix-up over a run, both being stranded in the middle of the pitch when Illingworth chipped a ball just wide of Kevin Arnott, who fielded the ball brilliantly at midwicket and threw the ball at the stumps at the bowler's end. The ball just clipped the bails and sped on to the boundary, with nobody there to back up, but it was enough for Illingworth to be run out. This dismissal was vital, as Illingworth looked to be well settled in and appeared to be a cool customer under pressure. The run was always risky, and Eddo Brandes thinks the batsmen's nerve cracked under the pressure to score urgently.

The last pair needed to score 10 runs off the last over to win. The final over was entrusted to the steady Malcolm Jarvis, who had been bowling a lot of slower balls and spinning or cutting them off the pitch. Dave Houghton told him to bowl his slower delivery first ball and he obliged; so did Gladstone Small, who flicked the ball off his toes and lobbed the easiest imaginable catch to midwicket to give Zimbabwe a remarkable victory. Pandemonium then reigned as the Zimbabwean players ran to the middle to celebrate and grab a stump as a souvenir.

The crowd was very much in support of Zimbabwe against the old enemy England. At the same time there was a match between Australia and the West Indies at Melbourne, with Australia already unable to qualify for the semi-finals, so there was limited interest there. It was reported that the most excitement at Melbourne came whenever there was a news flash concerning the match at Albury, and a huge cheer went up when it was announced that Zimbabwe had won.

England had already qualified for the semi-finals, so the result did not affect them apart from the blow to their pride. This was a great boost for Zimbabwe, though, who were unexpectedly able to return home with something to show for their World Cup campaign. England also had to face up to the fact that the Zimbabwean coach was Don Topley, the Essex seamer, who rejoiced in this victory over his national side skippered by his own county captain. At the interview after the match he told Gooch that he would remind him of his match every day during the next English season. Gooch told him that he wouldn't and, when Topley asked why not, replied that he (Gooch) didn't expect to be present at many of the Essex second-team matches!

Perhaps surprisingly in view of the result of the match and the reputation of the English, the two teams enjoyed quite a party together at the ground after the match before returning to the same hotel where both teams were staying. Andy Pycroft among others says that the English team were 'absolutely magnificent'; Ian Botham and others came into the changing rooms to offer congratulations and join in the celebrations. They had reached the end of the first round of the tournament; England were going through to the semi-finals and Zimbabwe were to return home. According to Dave Houghton, England were a more sociable team in those days, containing such characters as Ian Botham, Robin Smith and Allan Lamb, with Phil DeFreitas, Richard Illingworth, Gladstone Small and the Zimbabwean Hick also worthy of a mention.

Zimbabwe took an early flight back to Sydney the following morning, and from there it was back to Zimbabwe, after a campaign that had finished unexpectedly on a high note after much disappointment.

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Date-stamped : 29 Apr1999 - 10:50