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Zimbabwe’s match against India typified much of their cricket in the international arena: they fought hard, drew close but were beaten in the end. Unfortunately the match against England was another type seen too frequently over the years: Zimbabwe played their cards poorly, were badly outclassed and defeat was certain long before the end.

Let us say from the start that England played superbly. Their top-order batsman were irresistible; their new-ball bowlers did their job to perfection. The course of both innings was decided within the first few overs. Given the fact that England were the stronger team, it would have needed something even more brilliant from the Zimbabweans to win this match. When one of the major Test teams is in peak form, there is little Zimbabwe can do except pray for a miracle.

But in response to England’s outstanding play, Zimbabwe were disappointing. The bowling lacked discipline and the batting often common sense. In the field, however, they were outstanding, except for the unfortunate Andy Flower, whose days with the gloves are certainly numbered unless he can regain his touch quickly.

Zimbabwe again lost the toss and were condemned to toil in the field during the heat of the day and to bat under lights. It will be interesting to hear when the team returns - no doubt on the next available plane after their two losses - what effect the lights had on them. But over the television there appeared to be little problem.

There was one team change, Pommie Mbangwa coming in for Sean Ervine, strengthening the bowling but weakening the batting. Mbangwa earned his place with a good accurate spell that put the brake on England when they were in full cry. After years of being regarded as a Test-only bowler, with a one-day average approaching three figures, he seems to have worked it out and does a valuable job. Ervine was unfortunate in one sense: he took a brilliant catch but he showed his inexperience in his batting and bowling. My feeling is that he was plunged into international cricket before he had really settled down in top domestic cricket.

There was again no room for the highly promising all-rounder Travis Friend. Friend is another I feel was given a bit too much responsibility a little too soon, and his wayward, although pacy, bowling has caused his captain problems at times as he has been lashed all over the ground at the start of an innings.

Not that Heath Streak and Douglas Hondo did any better on this occasion. Direction was lacking, they tended to overpitch, and Marcus Trescothick in particular was able to launch into a series of powerful and costly drives. After ten overs the score was 61 without loss, and would have been considerably more without some superb fielding. Only when medium-pacers Mbangwa and Guy Whittall came on were the England batsmen forced to work hard for their runs. Streak has always found the white ball difficult to control, and it might be worth considering saving himself for later and using a more accurate practitioner to use it when it is new.

Hondo seems to have a knack for taking wickets, even if he is inaccurate, and it was he who bowled out Nick Knight cheaply, before that major partnership between Trescothick and Nasser Hussain. He returned to take three more wickets in a later spell. Streak’s second spell was much better than his first, but he is at present a mere shadow of the former great pace bowler who struck fear into the hearts of opening batsmen. His number one priority this season, above all captaincy interests, must be to regain his best bowling form.

An early blow to Zimbabwe was the thigh strain to Andy Flower that caused him to leave the field for a while and limited his batting later on. That was not responsible, though, for the three chances he missed behind the stumps, and he himself will be most unhappy with his keeping form.

Grant Flower, as he often does, put a brake on the scoring, and bowled more overs than Raymond Price and the disappointing Doug Marillier together. He played his part in frustrating out Hussain, although the wicket was claimed by Streak. Streak perhaps missed a trick as captain by consistently failing to put pressure on new batsmen to the crease, allowing them to make comfortable starts to their innings; the television commentators noted his defensive approach, aimed more at saving runs by constraint rather than by the taking of wickets.

Trescothick’s century, though, was a superb innings and England’s match-winner. It enabled England to come close to 300, a target that even Australia would have found hard to reach with England’s bowling strength in those conditions.

Zimbabwe this time quite failed to keep up with the required over rate, falling three overs short in the allocated time, but were generously fined only two overs by the match referee. The players will have their excuses, notably the heat and humidity, but the fact remains that even in good conditions they find it difficult these days to maintain the official rate - whereas before they gained Test status they invariably bowled more than 16 overs an hour. But - as with excessive appealing - they discovered on promotion to Test status that other teams were slowing down their over rate, and decided to copy them. Now, it seems, it is a habit out of control.

England’s opening bowlers, Andy Caddick and Matthew Hoggard, were as good as their batsmen. They gave Zimbabwe’s bowlers an object lesson in line and length, and it was very quickly clear that, barring miracles, Zimbabwe were not going to get anywhere near the 299 they needed in only 48 overs.

Alistair Campbell again failed as an opening batsman, but I would strongly urge against dropping him in the order. If there is good reason, perhaps drop him briefly from the team, as this will keep him on his toes, but don’t drop him in the order. His record shows that the lower down the order he bats, the fewer runs he scored. He thrives on pressure situations. He averaged almost 40 during his early Test career going in at three, and his career revived for a while when he was promoted to open. If he does not score runs at the top, he will never do so at five or six.

Once again Andy Flower was top scorer among the specialist batsmen, but he had a hard time of it. Not only was his running handicapped by his sore thigh, but also the English had noted his main scoring areas on the off side and set their fielders to block his shots. It did slow him down, but did not restrain him altogether, and he played one or two fine drives down the ground. It has always surprised me that local captains, by and large, have failed to do enough to cut off Andy’s favourite scoring areas. He is such a master such a tactic will have only limited results, but in one-day cricket especially it can be crucial.

Dion Ebrahim battled for his 20 off 48 balls, and when he was third out the scoring rate was just over three an over, compared to the required rate which was now almost eight an over. Who should come in next, with such a task? I would have gone for Whittall, followed by Streak himself and Marillier.

Instead, Streak stuck to the official batting order and Stuart Carlisle came in. He is a fine batsman but, despite the odd brilliant innings, notably against Australia at Perth last year, he is not the sort of powerful hitter who can transform a match in a few overs. Whittall is more the sort of batsman who can improvise and drive the bowlers to distraction. Streak is the hitter who can blitz the bowling, while Marillier is the last-ditch player in the final overs. Carlisle’s 23 off 39 balls really didn’t fit the bill, though it was not his fault; he was the wrong player for that situation.

Streak’s fifty was wasted. He came in too late and the match was already lost; the task would have been too great even for Marillier at his best then. We needed the hitters in ahead of Carlisle, who would have come in down the order when the hitters had either brought down the required rate, or failed so that it was quite impossible and the pressure was off. But to leave Streak and Marillier so late that the match was lost by the time they reached the crease was like fighting a battle and bringing the big guns into action only when most of the army had been killed.

Hopefully Zimbabwe will learn some lessons from this match, partly from their own deficiencies and partly from the superb England performance. At our best I doubt we could have beaten them on that day, but we could and should have run them a lot closer. I suspect England still remember the early days of matches between the two sides, when Zimbabwe won six of the first seven encounters, and this helps to raise their game. They still seek revenge, and nowadays they are exacting it in full. Zimbabwe need to find a way to raise their game as well.

A return to basics will help. Accuracy in bowling is vital. We can afford Hondo, expensive but a taker of wickets, as long as the other bowlers are always able to bowl there or thereabouts. We cannot afford more than one spray-painter among the seamers. Batting basics that require attention include the rotation of the strike by the top order, and playing down the line for the later batsmen, some of whom got themselves in trouble for failing to do this.

The fielding was great, although Andy Flower’s future behind the stumps must be in doubt. But we need to look at ways of putting more pressure on opposing batsmen, especially when they first come in, with our field placings.