The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hussain wants match-winners
- 2nd test l Skipper the only hope for under-powered Zimbabwe

London: Nasser Hussain will be seeking a new cast of match-winners in the second Test against Zimbabwe this week, with strike bowler Steve Harmison topping his wish list.

England’s innings win at Lord’s may have been the right result but the skipper will hope for more style this time as Durham makes its debut as a Test venue on Thursday.

Two batsmen who bowl a bit of part-time military medium — Mark Butcher (who also top-scored with 137 runs) and Anthony McGrath — shared seven second-innings wickets to wrap up the first match.

Their performance would have taught Hussain nothing he did not already know, namely that England are full of players capable of swinging the ball in helpful conditions while the current Zimbabwe side is one of the weakest to visit in decades.

There is still plenty to learn about Harmison, however, who will be on his home ground at Chester-le-Street. Hussain has often complained that England are failing to produce really special bowlers — wrist-spinners or out-and-out quicks — but the towering Harmison is one of the exceptions, generating pace and disconcerting bounce.

The 24-year-old will never be a line-and-length bowler — he bowled eight wides in an over during the Ashes tour — but he will always worry batsmen. Harmison, however, has yet to turn vicious deliveries into wickets and his three victims at Lord’s were overshadowed by the performance of another youngster as James Anderson took five in the first innings of his debut.

Hussain would like nothing better this time than a Man-of-the-Match medal for the quietly spoken Harmison who, as a young man, got homesick whenever straying far from home outside his county boundaries.

There will also be pressure on batsman Robert Key to perform at Durham. In 12 Test innings, he has reached 50 just once and averages 20. Unlucky to be given out at Lord’s, he will be doubly keen to take advantage of one of the weakest bowling attacks in Test cricket to establish himself in the team.

Somerset fast bowler Richard Johnson, meanwhile, looks certain to beat James Kirtley to the final England place and make his debut as a replacement for the injured Matthew Hoggard.

Johnson was on the brink of England selection in 1995 but has since been held back by a string of injuries. “He is in good form and is a bowler who is capable of 90mph pace and making the ball swing,” chairman of selectors David Graveney said.

Main threat

Zimbabwe skipper Heath Streak was the only opposition bowler to look consistently threatening in the first Test and he may be forced to do it alone again in Durham. The under-powered Zimbabweans have only won one of their five matches on tour, that against British Universities.

Asked if he could draw any positives from the first Test, he was reduced to discussing bowler Travis Friend’s batting at number nine. Such tit-bits do not bode well for a Zimbabwe revival.


England: Nasser Hussain (captain), James Anderson, Mark Butcher, Ashley Giles, Steve Harmison, Robert Key, James Kirtley, Richard Johnson, Anthony McGrath, Alec Stewart, Marcus Trescothick, Michael Vaughan.

Zimbabwe: Heath Streak (captain), Tatenda Taibu, Grant Flower, Dion Ebrahim, Mark Vermeulen, Barney Rogers, Sean Ervine, Andy Blignaut, Mlukeli Nkala, Stuart Carlisle, Raymond Price, Travis Friend, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Douglas Hondo.

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