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posted on Jun, 7 2003 @ 04:45 PM
England had to work a little harder in Zimbabwe's second innings to complete a landslide second-Test victory at The Riverside.

But four wickets each for James Anderson and local hero Steve Harmison - to add to Richard Johnson's first-innings six-for on debut - were enough to polish off the tourists inside three days and complete a 2-0 series victory.

Fast bowler Harmison (four for 54) appropriately took the last wicket of the match with an off-stump yorker to see of number 11 Doug Hondo.

"To get the last wicket was special for me and the crowd that was here today," he said, after the innings-and-69-run win had marked the first ever Test match in north-east England.

"They are my best figures in Test cricket on my home ground - what more can you ask for.

"The fans were excellent. It is what the club have wanted for a long time, so they will be pleased with this."

Johnson, who went wicketless through 22 second-innings overs, could nonetheless look back on a most encouraging start to his Test career which saw him help hustle Zim out for only 94 at the first attempt in their reply to 416.

"It was a little bit more difficult in the second innings," the Somerset pace bowler admitted ruefully.

Johnson was named man of the match for his six for 33 in the first innings and on receiving his award he said: "I couldn't have asked for anything better yesterday, although it was a bit harder today.

"I have waited a while (for his debut) but it has all been worth it."

England skipper Nasser Hussain was delighted with another win, but expects a far tougher examination in the upcoming five-Test series against South Africa.

He said: "The last 11 to 13 days of Test cricket have been really good, I know we are going to be tested against stronger sides but we can only play against the sides which are put against us and that is what we did.

"Everyone asked us to win the series and win it convincingly and we did.

"Zimbabwe are struggling, there is no point in knocking them, though. I was in Australia not so long ago when we had injuries and things didn't go our way.

"You can kick a team when they are down on the field but not off it."

Graeme Smith's South African tourists were curiously ranked number one in the world a few months ago - no-one in the game would dispute that Australia are far and away the best team, however - and are sure to be of a higher calibre.

"We have done well, it has lifted my spirits a lot and more importantly made us realise that we can play some good cricket," said Hussain.

"But the side coming up next are nearly as good as Australia and hopefully everyone will stay fit so we can see how far we have come."

The way his inexperienced attack nipped the Zimbabweans out twice on a placid pitch clearly pleased Hussain and suggested the three senior paceman currently out of the reckoning because of injuries this season will find it hard to regain their places.

Johnson added to the equation for the first Test at Edgbaston on July 24.

He became the ninth fast bowler used by England in the last seven Tests at Chester-le-Street's bow and there will be plenty of jockeying for position between now and then.

But Hussain hinted his youngsters had done enough: "I was watching as well as captaining today because these are the sort of wickets that - if we are going to be successful - we have to master. The ones that don't bounce.

"The wickets will be like that in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even West Indies where there is little bounce and you have to rely on reverse swing.

"That is why I wanted Jimmy to come back and get five wickets so he could show it is not all about swing bowling, it is about hitting the deck and variations.

"Harmison also showed he is the type of bowler we need when it gets flat."

Thirty-somethings Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick have 462 wickets between them in Tests, however, and Hussain admitted: "It is going to be hard for the selectors because some of the older guns have done it against everyone in world cricket and are proven competitors.

"But the way we have been going with injuries I am sure they will all fit in some way or another."

Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak reckoned his team had shown an overall improvement compared to their Lord's drubbing - but failed to take their chances when England wobbled on the first day.

"Sometimes we had England on the ropes but couldn't finish them off," he declared. "Having had them 158 for five we dropped two catches and had we held them it could have been different."

They were shot out inside two-and-a-quarter hours on day two and Streak added: "Our middle-order has been disappointing throughout the series."

Mark Butcher was named man of the series after following his 137 in the first Test at Lord's with 47 at the Riverside.

He said: "I'm in pretty good nick. I haven't had a terrific amount of innings in the summer so far, so I am pleased I have been able to maintain the form I had from the Ashes series into the games that mattered."

Butcher also realised challenges lie ahead, adding: "South Africa could be a fantastic series. The sides are evenly-matched, but with a home advantage I think we should be able to turn them over."

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