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England seal final berth

Bristol: Allrounder Andrew Flintoff made vital contributions with bat and ball as England eased to a six-wicket win over Zimbabwe on Sunday and a place in the triangular one-day final against South Africa.

Flintoff followed up his three for 13, mopping up the tail after pacer Darren Gough had destroyed Zimbabwe’s fragile top-order, by hitting an undefeated 47 from 37 balls. England had lost four quick wickets in chasing just 93 for victory.

Gough bagged four for 26 as Zimbabwe were routed for 92 in just 24.5 overs after being asked to bat first.

It was their lowest in a one-day International against England, eclipsing their 114 at Old Trafford in 2000. It was also their second lowest in all one-dayers, following their capitulation for 38 against Sri Lanka during the 2001-02 season.

England made hard work of their reply after Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak matched Gough by taking four wickets to reduce the hosts to 25 for four.

But Flintoff calmed frayed nerves with some lusty blows, including 18 off one Andy Blignaut over, to guide England home in 17.5 overs, sharing a stand of 70 with captain Michael Vaughan (11) in 59 balls.

Streak’s opening burst had left England facing a potentially embarrassing defeat.

Opener Marcus Trescothick (8) failed for the second time in the series against Zimbabwe, edging to second slip, and pinch-hitter Richard Johnson, promoted up the order, swiftly followed, caught second ball off a skier.

Vikram Solanki (7) and Anthony McGrath (1) also fell cheaply, leaving Vaughan and Flintoff with a rebuilding job.

The pair were content to prod singles before Flintoff burst into life in the 14th over, carting Blignaut for successive fours, a six from a no-ball, then another four to put England back in control.

The burly allrounder was dropped at first slip on 33 by Travis Friend, before sealing victory with a top-edged six over wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu’s head.

Just two Zimbabwe batsmen reached double figures as they had no answer to Gough’s hostile high-class spell of fast bowling.

The Yorkshire quickie removed Dion Ebrahim with a venomous lifter, as well as finding the outside edges of Travis Friend (4), Grant Flower (1) and Streak (5). (Reuters)

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