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Zimbabwe v Australia at Harare
23 Oct 1999 (John Ward)

Australia comprehensively beat Zimbabwe

Australia took an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the one-day series with a comprehensive nine-wicket victory over Zimbabwe at Harare Sports Club. Another disappointing performance by the home side led to the match finishing at 2.50 pm local time in front of one of the largest crowds seen at the ground, thought to be over ten thousand.

The pitch, according to former Zimbabwean captain and chairman of selectors Andy Pycroft, was not really suitable for a one-day match, having too much grass left on it and having absorbed some moisture from a storm the previous night, and it was therefore of considerable advantage to win the toss. Australia duly called correctly and naturally put Zimbabwe in to bat.

The Australian team showed Adam Dale replacing Glenn McGrath, who perhaps deserves to rest on his laurels after playing his 100th one-day international in Bulawayo, while Zimbabwe replaced the out-of-form Guy Whittall and Gary Brent with Trevor Madondo and John Rennie, now fit again after splitting his hand earlier in the week. Heath Streak was still not fit to play.

In the absence of McGrath, Zimbabwe opened with two left-handers in Alistair Campbell and Neil Johnson. Campbell, after a series of middle-order failures, was doubtless hoping for a change of fortune, but he was to be disappointed.

It soon became clear that runs would be at a premium for a while, as Damien Fleming and Dale exploited the conditions superbly, getting the ball to lift sharply from just short of a length. Campbell danced down the pitch to hit a sparkling four wide of mid-on off Dale. Then, in Fleming's next over, Johnson (2) slashed a catch at neck height directly to Ponting in the gully, and Zimbabwe were 9 for one. With only one run added, Campbell (5) fended at a ball from Dale and edged a catch to Mark Waugh at second slip off the shoulder of the bat, yet another failure for the Zimbabwean captain.

Zimbabwe's disasters continued with the loss of Andy Flower without scoring. Playing back to Dale with a bat by no means as straight as desirable, he chopped the ball on to his stumps, and Zimbabwe were 10 for three wickets.

Grant Flower finally got the score moving again by turning Dale for two past square leg. It was another two overs before any more runs came, when Flower flicked Dale through midwicket for three. Madondo was playing an innings of remarkable patience, as all Zimbabwe could do against bowling of this quality was to hang on and wait until the pitch eased. He finally got off the mark, off the 27th ball he faced, when he fended a ball towards square leg and Flower called him through for a quick single..

The first boundary finally came when Dale overpitched and Madondo drove him handsomely to long-on; Flower drove another overpitched ball straight for three and, with four leg-byes, a total of 13 runs came off the over. Fleming's opening spell read 7-4-5-1, and included a wide and a no-ball.

Runs came more freely as both batsmen took advantage of balls off line and placed the ball skilfully through the off-side field. Then Madondo hit Moody for a superb six over his head, and Flower off-drove Symonds to the boundary to bring up the fifty. Madondo's favourite back-foot drive backward of point brought him four more off Symonds, and then a fine off-driven boundary, on the up, off Moody brought up the fifty partnership, Zimbabwe's first for the fourth wicket against Australia in one-day internationals.

It was to be Zimbabwe's only substantial partnership. Martyn replaced Symonds, who proved expensive, and struck almost immediately, Flower (17) flashing at a ball moving away outside the off stump and edging a catch to wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist. Zimbabwe were 63 for four after 20 overs, the pair having added 53 in 52 minutes.

Goodwin got off the mark in style, lofting Moody to long leg for a one-bounce four, but Madondo did not last much longer, hitting Moody off his toes to be caught low down at short midwicket by Shane Warne for 29. He had played a fine innings, but Zimbabwe were reeling again at 71 for five.

Wickets continued to fall regularly. Rennie (0) did not last long, reaching wide of the off stump to a swinging delivery from Moody and snicking a catch straight to the keeper, making Zimbabwe 75 for six. Goodwin joined him back in the pavilion with the very next ball, a regulation catch to the keeper off a regulation ball just outside the off stump.

Andy Blignaut batted with commendable determination, but Fleming returned as Australia decided to polish off the innings immediately. He quickly got a ball to lift sharply on Rennie, though, and the keeper took another catch as he tried unsuccessfully to withdraw his bat. He made 5, and Zimbabwe were now 87 for eight.

The last two wickets did at least succeed in taking Zimbabwe past 94, their lowest score in a one-day international (against Sri Lanka, Sharjah, 1996/97) and then their lowest at home (105 against the same opposition in 1994/95). Andrew Whittall seemed content to hold his end up until he suddenly decided to give some slip-catching practice, hanging his bat out to a ball from Fleming and hitting it into the waiting hands of Ponting at fourth slip. Zimbabwe were 98 for nine.

When last man David Mutendera reached the crease, the Australians called up more fielders to pack their slip cordon, until all nine fielders were involved! But Mutendera played a fine fighting innings and the last pair added 18 together before Mutendera drove over a yorker and was bowled for 10, leaving Blignaut not out on 21 and Zimbabwe all out for a dismal 116 off 37.3 overs. Fleming returned the best figures of three for 14 off his ten overs.

With the Zimbabwean innings having subsided so rapidly, the Australians began their innings before lunch needing 117 to win.

John Rennie drew a roar from the crowd as he had Gilchrist fishing unsuccessfully outside the off stump to his second ball. The batsman put the next past midwicket for three to open Australia's account, then a misfield in the gully gave Mark Waugh a single. Mutendera from the city end pitched short and Gilchrist hooked him for four to long leg. In his next over he beat Gilchrist outside the off stump with successive balls, the second drawing an appeal for a catch at the wicket which was rejected. Then another short ball was similarly dispatched to the long-leg boundary.

Zimbabwe's bowlers were putting their hearts into their seemingly hopeless task, but did not have the pace or life from the pitch that the Australian pacemen enjoyed. At times they bowled too short, and the batsmen took heavy toll of these. They did succeed in taking a wicket on the stroke of lunch, though, as Blignaut moved a ball away from Gilchrist (18) to have him sparring outside off stump and giving Johnson a low diving catch to his left at slip. Australia went in on 31 for one, Waugh still there on 9.

Waugh had not looked very comfortable before lunch, and appeared to have some difficulty with his timing. After the interval it was a different story, though, as he soon began gliding the ball over the outfield as effortlessly as ever. Ricky Ponting was particularly harsh on the short balls that were misguidedly sent his way, while many of Waugh's boundaries came from classic off-drives. He also hit Mutendera high over his head for a six into the sightscreen to take his score to 40.

When Rennie returned Waugh swung him to long leg, where Madondo just failed to hold on to what would have been a brilliant diving catch. He off-drove the next ball superbly to the boundary. A leg-glance off Mutendera, brilliantly saved by Whittall, took him to 49, before he glided a ball past slip to reach his fifty, which came off 86 balls.

Hard though the Zimbabweans tried in the field, they just had not the firepower in attack to trouble two such fine players with the pressure off. Rennie believed he had Ponting out caught at the wicket on 27 as he pushed outside the off stump, but umpire Kevan Barbour disagreed; the replay was not altogether conclusive but did not seem to indicate an edge.

The winning runs came with another short ball, this time from Rennie, another pull by Ponting and another boundary. Australia walked off winners at 2.50 pm local time by nine wickets, Zimbabwe's heaviest loss by wickets at home; their final total was 117 for one, with Waugh 54 and Ponting 31.



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Date-stamped : 23 Oct1999 - 15:30 [an error occurred while processing this directive]