Zimbabwe Triangular Series Game 1- Zimbabwe v Australia: Return to Harare

Ten years have passed since Australia last played at the Harare Sports Club, or indeed anywhere in Zimbabwe. That 2004 tour was shortened to just 3 one-day internationals after the two Test match series was abandoned when captain Heath Streak and most other senior white players were sacked by the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. (See Chloe Saltau’s report in the Age, May 22, 2004.)

That short ODI series that followed saw Australia comprehensively win 3-0. A young Michael Clarke made his first international century in the 3rd game. He is the only name from then still in the Australian team, though his then teamate Darren Lehmann is now the coach. And now, a decade later, Australia finally returns to play cricket in the once prosperous southern African nation. South Africa, who have already toured Zimbabwe for a one-off Test and 3 ODI’s the past few weeks, join them for this tri-series. Zimbabwean cricket is only marginally stronger now than it was after the events of 2004. Who knows if life for the average Zimbabwean has improved in the decade that has passed.

Zimbabwean one-day captain Elton Chigumbura won the toss and elected to field. From the Australian ODI team that last appeared on Australia Day at the Adelaide Oval with a 5 run win over England, there are 7 changes. Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Shaun Marsh and Nathan Coulter-Nile are all out injured. Clint McKay (despite taking 3/36 off 10 overs in that Adelaide Oval game) and Xavier Doherty (0/40 off 10) and Matthew Wade are all omitted. Only Clarke has been selected for this tour. They are replaced by  Brad Haddin, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Kane Richardson, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon.

Phil Hughes, despite an immense pre-season where he has scored runs at will for Australia A, is 12th man. Is he being protected from the Zimbabwean attack in much the same way he was protected from the touring South Africans in 2012/13 when Rob Quiney was made to face Steyn, Morkel and co??

Openers Finch and Haddin take their time to settle in on a very slow Harare pitch, against the pedestrian home team opening bowlers, before both open their shoulders in an opening partnership of 98. Finch smashes 3 big sixes in an impressive 67 off 79 balls. Experienced off-spinner Prosper Utseya, formerly an orthodox offie, now getting his 15 degrees worth with a noticably Murali-like action, tied the tourists down for a while before an astonishing 4th wicket partnership of 109 between Mitchell Marsh and Glenn Maxwell in just 9 overs set up a massive total for Australia. Marsh, at number 3, made 89 off 83 balls with 7 fours and 4 sixes, while Maxwell smashed 93 off 46 with 9 fours and 5 sixes. The highest scores in an ODI for both players, delivered with orthodox and unorthodox clean hitting.

Mitchell Johnson finished the innings off with an unbeaten 20 off 10 balls, including this straight six that smashed the window of the television commentary box.

Johnson went from terrorising commentators to terrorising opening batsmen with the new ball, looking just as rapid as he did last home Summer. His new goatee beard makes him look even more fearsome than his moustache from the Ashes. Number 3 Hamilton Masakadza battled hard for 70 off 91 balls but had little support. Zimbabwe all out for 152 in 39.3 overs in front of a tiny home crowd. Mitch Starc also bowled with good pace and swing with the new ball, Kane Richardson went wicketless but showed he can offer something at this level with his tightness and pace. A fair bit of Lance Klusener in the way the South Australian Richardson bowls. All-rounders Mitch Marsh and James Faulkner both bowled tightly and got a wicket each. Shane Watson wouldn’t want to be stepping on too many more cricket balls with this pair on the scene.

Nathan Lyon, playing in just his 3rd ODI, got two wickets  but went for 6 an over in the first of his auditions for the World Cup in place of a somewhat unlucky Doherty.  Steve Smith cleaned up the tail with some well flighted leggies. Smith will be very keen to improve his so far poor career ODI batting record on this tour. Like Lyon, he is also very much being tried out with the World Cup in mind.

A comprehensive 198 run win to Australia. South Africa will be tougher in game 2. But these results won’t matter when the World Cup rolls around in February. But for the players fighting for spots in the World Cup, these games mean everything.

Australia 6/350 (GJ Maxwell 93, MR Marsh 89, AJ Finch 67, BJ Haddin 46, TL Chatara 2/77) def.

Zimbabwe 152 (H Masakadza 70, Sikandar Raza 33, SPD Smith 3/16, MA Starc 2/23, NM Lyon 2/42)

About Luke Reynolds

Cricket and Collingwood tragic. Twitter: @crackers134

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Luke yes the auditions for the. World Cup will be interesting . Richo has a lot to offer as he is a very good fielder who can also. score quickly at the end of a innings ( has done more with the bat at shield level than 1 dayers ) .ironic in that Lyon was discovered via the big bash has played so little 1 day cricket at the elite level
    Are there better 1 day options than the knackerys favorite player in Watto now ?
    Thanks Luke

  2. How can Hughes not get a game?. Nice time for Marsh to get a go at 3. Interesting who will be the no 1 spinner in the World Cup Lyon, Doherty or Muirhead.

  3. Gregor Lewis says

    Hughes IS the.curious omission here.

    Thanks for the write-up Luke. Any insight as to why he became persona non grata post Ashes exclusion?

    I don’t remember him playing in the English ODI’s.
    He then reappeared for the Runfest Indian Tour. Was he no good there then?
    I can’t remember anything he did, besides filling in for Haddin after he copped that ‘willy-nilly’ poke in the eye from Faulkner.
    Is that apropos of Hughes’ lack of performance or indicative of a sieve-like memory quotient?

    What do ya know Luke?

    grl

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Malcolm, with Maxwell, Faulkner and M.Marsh we could well have 3 better ODI all-rounder options than Watto. I’ve been a big Mitch Marsh fan since I first saw him, just worried that he has a Watto like penchant for being injured.

    Raj, Hughes looked impressive with his half century against South Africa tonight. For mine Doherty still our best 50 over spin option. Having Maxwell already in the team makes it harder for Lyon, Muirhead will be a star, a few years into the future though.

    Gregor, Hughes averaged 33 in his 6 ODI’s in that Indian series, about his career average. Tonight’s game against South Africa is his first ODI since the final game of that Indian series. I have always thought he will make it as a very good 50 over player. Sadly I dont have that opinion at the moment for his Test career. He needs to make the most of every chance, though at 25 time is on his side.

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