Zimbabwe humble West Indies for the second time in a week

by Tony Cozier in Canterbury
Stabroek News
July 12, 2000

The West Indies weren't so much beaten by Zimbabwe in the latest match of the NatWest Series here yesterday as utterly humiliated by them.

It was no less than they deserved for a woeful performance. The margin of 70 runs, sizeable as it was, did not justly reflect the gap between the teams. It was only narrowed when Zimbabwe, victory assured as early as the 19th over, visibly relaxed and allowed the last two wickets to raise 129.

Zimbabwe's third successive victory ensured their passage to the final at Lord's on July 22 runs with still three matches remaining. It left the West Indies to contest the other place with England over their last three matches and, on the evidence of the last 10 days, they are on an unlikely mission.

Without putting too fine a point on it, yesterday they were pathetic.

Zimbabwe took fullest toll of uninspired bowling and shoddy fielding that offered them five chances before one finally stuck, to compile 256 for four from their 50 overs. It was always a stiff challenge on an outfield slowed by the recent rain and against one of the finest fielding outfits in the game.

The West Indies were never in contention.

As England had done at Lord's on the unforgettable Friday of the second Test and they themselves occasionally did in the Caribbean earlier in the year, Zimbabwe exposed the fallibility of the West Indies batting and the fragility of their temperament that has been put under repeated pressure since their shock Lord's defeat.

They were reduced to 40 for five when Jimmy Adams and Brian Lara were out to Heath Streak's first two balls of the 13th over. After that, they could only indulge in damage limitation and they managed to reach 186 for eight.

A couple of leg-side sixes by Franklyn Rose off Paul Strang's leg-spin in 30 off 32 balls and an eighth wicket partnership of 54 between Ridley Jacobs, 37 off 78 balls, and Nixon McLean, unbeaten 50 off 70 balls, fooled no one, not least the few flag-waving West Indians in the crowd who were left colder by their team's ineptitude than by the frigid weather more late autumn than midsummer.

Both teams made remarkable turnarounds but in opposite directions. This is a different, self-confident Zimbabwe team to that was distracted in the early weeks of May by a players' row with the board over pay, a wet spring and the unsettling upheavals back home. The last time they were at the St.Lawrence ground here they were thrashed by an innings by Kent immediately after their innings defeat to England in the Lord's Test.

The West Indies have inexplicably gone to pieces since their resounding innings victory over England in the first Test and domination through half of the second was followed by their all-out 54 and dumbfounding defeat, are a different team.

Zimbabwe won their first two matches against the West Indies last Thursday and England last Saturday chasing targets. They showed yesterday they are as proficient at defending but they were aided and abetted by their opponents.

Neil Johnson, regaining the form that made him one of the stars of last year's World Cup but which deserted him on the disappointing campaign in the Caribbean, was once more their talisman, opening both batting and bowling with telling effect.

His 51 off 68 balls during which he was offered plenty of fodder wide of off stump to indulge his favourite cut shot gave the innings its momentum after Adams won the toss and predictably chose to field under gray, foreboding skies.

Johnson shared a first wicket stand of 89 off 19 overs with Guy Whittal and, in between seven wides, he returned to despatch openers Sherwin Campbell and Chris Gayle within his first three overs.

He had seen Zimbabwe home in the first match against the West Indies with an unbeaten 95 and was again in dominant mood when Wavell Hinds' throw from 80 yards on the midwicket boundary ran him out trying to pinch a third run.

Rain arrived as he departed but the pattern had been set. When play resumed after half-hour's break, Whittal and Alistair Campbell gathered runs with little bother in a third wicket partnership of 96 off 17 overs once Gayle had yorked Murray Goodwin in the 28th over.

The right-handed Whittal benefitted from chances at 40 (a high, right-handed return to Rose), 49 (low to Campbell at mid-off, off Adams) and 78 (by Hinds at midwicket off Rose). But he never lost the plot in accumulating 83 with the common sense lacking later in the West Indies' approach.

He fell with 5.4 overs remaining, finally well caught by Hinds over his shoulder, running back from mid-wicket off Rose. But the left-handed Campbell stayed to the end for 77 off 79 balls, as he had done at the Oval on Saturday for his match-winning, unbeaten 80 against England.

He should have been stumped at 8 off Gayle by Jacobs who had a rare untidy day behind the stumps but then dominated the remainder of the innings.

Campbell needed only two boundaries, one the only six of the innings off Adams' left-arm spin over long, testament to how skilfully he utilised the gaps and the uncertainty of the West Indian fielders. There was a lot of fumbling and falling on a surface still affected by the rain of the previous couple of days. Campbell, Gayle and Hinds had all fallen to loose strokes by the sixth over when the West Indies set out after their distant goal and the outcome was settled when Adams found himself in the same crease as Lara in a disagreement over an on-side single off the first ball from Streak who promptly bowled Lara off the inside-edge next ball.

Campbell clipped a half-volley off his legs into squareleg's lap, Gayle scooped a straightforward delivery to mid-on and Hinds drove a return catch to Bryan Strang, the left-arm medium-pace swinger who would be relished by several club batsmen in the West Indies.

The game was up when Adams sacrificed himself in the mix-up with Lara who diverted the next ball, his 21st, into the stumps off an inside-edge after accumulating three uncertain singles.

It was the ideal stage for Ricardo Powell to show his mettle but after cover driven and ondriven boundaries off Streak, he played across left-arm spinner Dirk Viljoen and was bowled.

So the tail was left to save some face. It was that sort of day for the West Indies and they have become too regular of late.

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