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Sunday, 27 February, 2000, 13:10 GMT
England's end of term report

England never recovered from the calamitous first Test
England ended their winter tour on a high but BBC News Online's Thrasy Petropoulos says the one-day successes over Zimbabwe could not make up for the Test series defeat against South Africa.

To judge by the moans and groans evident when England's one-day squad landed in Zimbabwe, the last leg of a winter tour which for some had already lasted four months could have easily been a downward spiral.

England's top order were no match for Allan Donald
In actual fact it is a good job that England were forced into extending their tour, even if the ten days' stay amounted to little more than an exercise in patching up diplomatic relations which had remained decidedly icy since their last trip to Zimbabwe three years ago.

The three one-day victories in Bulawayo and Harare, if by far the least challenging of the 12 international matches completed on tour, at least gave substance to Nasser Hussain's insistence that England had made progress during their time away.

For all the backslapping that went on in Harare where, after nine failed attempts, England finally triumphed in a one-day series, the reputation of the players will ultimately be judged by their time in South Africa.

A tour which started calamitously at the Wanderers with the loss of the first Test within the first 15 minutes of play, ended at the same ground with England in a similar state of disrepair in the final of the triangular tournament.

Hussain: Emerging as a fine leader
All their good intentions and preparation going into the Test series lay in tatters on that fateful November morning as debutants Michael Vaughan and Chris Adams found themselves together without a Test run between them and the score a scarcely credible four for two.

So the circle of fate completed its course with England ending their days in South Africa back at the Bullring in the one-day final, once again confronted by a poor pitch.

This time England should have exacted some sort of revenge.

For the first time in the one-day series Hussain won the toss and Caddick & Co. reacted by bundling South Africa out for 149.

As Hussain said afterwards: "If we had played with any kind of common sense we would have chased that and won it."

Caddick: The one man feared by South Africa
Needless to say, they didn't.

England's best one-day performance on tour came in the first match, in Bloemfontein, when South Africa were restricted to 184 and England won at a canter, by nine wickets and more than ten overs to spare.

There were ups and downs from that point - true to England form, the ups were very up and the downs were very down - but generally there was more steel to the side with every performance.

Individuals took it in turns to shine: the skipper and Nick Knight with a series of fifties, Mark Ealham with his England record of 5-15 in Kimberly - all five of them lbw - Craig White with his 5-21 in Bulawayo, and Graeme Hick with his two 80s and five-for in Harare.

Chris Read was the player to gain most, having almost lost his place as wicketkeeper before the first game.

South Africa also beat England in the one-day final
By the time England completed their 3-0 whitewash in Zimbabwe (before, that is, the last game itself was washed out), their collapse to 107 against the Zimbos at Newlands - their lowest one-day ebb - had been forgotten.

The success, or otherwise, of the tour, however, has to be governed by the Test series.

Up until the final Test at Centurion there had been only one winner.

Again individuals had shown promise (Hussain's 10 -hour 146 and Caddick's 7-46 in Durban standing out) but South Africa had taken an unassailable 2-0 lead through victories in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Rain interferred with much of the tour
Then came England's brightest moment, the victory of sorts at Centurion Park.

It might have taken a double-forfeiture to make it possible, but it was a victory nonetheless and a triumph, in particular, for Michael Vaughan whose 69 took England to a last-over victory on the final day.

It was to be the only instance of one of England's young and untested cricketers making a match-winning contribution on tour.

Small comfort, perhaps, but these days any sort of comfort will do.

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