Report by Neil Robinson 01/07/03
Michael Vaughan’s first opportunity to captain England on his home ground in the fourth match of the NatWest ODI Series was ruined by the weather. After a generally fine and dry June, the start of July was heralded by a band of heavy rain which settled across the centre of England causing some of the wettest conditions in several months.
In the 24 hours up to the start of play, some parts of Yorkshire received more than a month’s worth of rain. First thing in the morning, a damp and dreary Headingley looked like receiving more of the same. In the end the game lasted a total of 16.3 overs, during which England struggled to 81 for 4, and the only surprise about that was that they had got on the field at all. England having thus been denied an opportunity to capitalise upon their fine performance against South Africa, Zimbabwe will probably be the happier of the two teams with the share of three points, not least because more rain is forecast over the next two days. England must now hope it clears before their day-night clash with South Africa at Old Trafford on Thursday.
With rain having fallen more or less none stop for 36 hours, only the most optimistic types were predicting any chance of play. But, remarkably, the rain did abate for a while in the morning. The groundstaff scurried about efficiently, the umpires did their sums and all seemed set for a 1.15pm start and a 43 overs per side contest. England, with a fit again Michael Vaughan resuming in place of Robert Key, opted to go in with an all seam attack and chose Worcestershire’s Kabir Ali for a debut in place of Ashley Giles. Zimbabwe’s thinking was along similar lines, not surprising at Headingley on a day like this, and they omitted spinner Ray Price in favour of Gary Brent. But with only 15 minutes to go, the rain came down once more, this time looking like it might stick around for good.
It was typical of the weather in this part of the world that it should tantalise us all with the promise of some cricket, only to dash all hopes at the last moment. The minimum number of overs permitted for a proper contest was 25 per side, the latest possible moment for beginning a contest of this length was 3.50pm. Sure enough, the rain ceased once more just in time for the game to begin under those conditions. But the players took the field at last knowing full well that any interruption would automatically mean the game’s abandonment. Zimbabwe put England in and quickly reduced them to 32 for 4 with the ball zipping and popping all over the place. It was the classic Headingley batsman’s nightmare. But, playing with good sense and impressive skill, and refusing to go off in the poor light and drizzle, local boys Vaughan and McGrath took the score on to 81 before the rain returned in earnest. It was a bitter end to a frustrating day.
If the poor weather continues and disrupts the game at Old Trafford on Thursday, England will face an uphill battle to qualify for the final of this series. Either way, the pressure on them in each remaining match is now all the greater. Their spirits, still high, may have been dimmed a little this morning by the news that a scan on Andrew Caddick’s back, which has flared up again during his absence with a foot injury, has revealed a prolapsed disc which will rule him out for the rest of the summer. As he was already thought to be less than keen about touring this coming winter, this latest setback could well mean that we have seen the last of the big Somerset man at Test level. His career was surely in its twilight stage, but this would be a sad way for it to end.
England 81 for 4 from 16.3 overs (Vaughan 35*, Streak 2 for 13)
Match abandoned, 3 points each