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

Australia maintain winning record with one-day clean sweep

Another crowd probably in excess of ten thousand attended the final match of the Australian tour on a warm, sunny, if somewhat hazy morning, with the match being played on the same pitch as the previous day. With less moisture in it, the pitch was not quite so difficult as on the previous day, but the result, a nine-wicket Australian victory, was just the same, even if they had to work a little harder for it. Zimbabwe in fact only did better due to a return to form by Andy Flower, who scored almost half their runs.

It was still a pitch giving a decided advantage to the team winning the toss, and once again the big battalions won the toss and put Zimbabwe in to bat. Zimbabwe recalled Gary Brent in place of Gavin Rennie, in an effort to strengthen their pace attack. For Australia Darren Lehmann and Glenn McGrath replaced Mark Waugh and Damien Fleming.

Despite the return of McGrath, Zimbabwe again opened with two left-handers in Alistair Campbell and Neil Johnson. The first ball of the match seemed to confirm suspicions about the liveliness of the pitch as it reared and lifted outside off stump, but in fact this was an exception, although there was still more lift and movement in the first hour.

The Zimbabwe innings was a story of gradual subsidence rather than spectacular collapse. Campbell, whose technique appears to have been compromised at present by the demands of the one-day game, got away with a skyer over cover which Symonds did exceptionally well to reach but was unable to hold. Johnson was first to go; he never looked fluent, and in the end, sparring at a ball from McGrath outside off stump, edged a low catch to Shane Warne in the slips for 3, making Zimbabwe 24 for one.

Trevor Madondo got off the mark with a superb drive off the back foot off Dale to the extra-cover boundary, but Campbell did not last much longer. He offered a diagonal bat, without any particular force behind it, to a ball outside off stump to McGrath, and played on to his stumps via the inside edge. He scored 18, and Zimbabwe were 29 for two, with a solid start in danger of being badly wasted.

Andy Flower played out the over without radiating his usual air of solidity and dependability. He did institute a series of quick singles, though, which kept the score moving. McGrath and Dale bowled seven-over spells each while the pitch was still lively, but the next wicket fell as soon as Tom Moody came on. Madondo (6) lashed at a ball outside off stump and was adjudged by umpire Robinson to have got a thin top edge to wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist. Once again the Zimbabwe batting was proving all too fallible as the score slumped to 38 for three

The Flower brothers always run superbly together, and their quick running added an atmosphere of enterprise. Neither was in his best form, but they battled it out, with Andy lofting the ball more often than usual, especially when employing the pull. Grant too played a couple of drives over the covers, but just as a substantial partnership seemed to be developing he tried to pull a ball from Symonds that was directed too far outside off stump, and skyed a catch to midwicket; Damien Martyn had to run quite a distance from mid-on to take the catch. The score was now 81 for four after 24 overs, with Grant out for 17.

This was to be the story of the innings: several useful partnerships seemed to be developing with Andy, but a wicket would fall just as the batsmen were threatening to take control. Murray Goodwin (14) drove at Warne without getting his foot to the ball, and Symonds at short extra cover took a hard low catch, reducing Zimbabwe to 120 for five.

Andy Blignaut soon survived an appeal for a catch at the wicket off Moody, and the television replay seemed to suggest a correct decision by umpire Russell Tiffin. He was not to last long, though, having a dip at a ball from Warne that spun sharply away from the left-hander and slicing a catch to Michael Bevan at backward point, scoring only 1. Zimbabwe slipped further downhill at 125 for six.

Flower finally reached his fifty with a characteristic cut backward of point. It took him 69 balls, a hard-fought innings but not one of his soundest, although he did not give an actual chance. At the other end he slashed Warne backward of point for another boundary, drove to deep extra cover for two and took one for a mistimed pull, clearly deciding the time was right to speed up the scoring. Rennie then pulled another four, making it 11 off the over.

Once again, as soon as a partnership was taking shape, it was broken. Flower played a ball towards backward point, only for Gilchrist to run very quickly round to retrieve it; Rennie, backing up too eagerly, was stranded halfway down the pitch and unable to beat the throw to the bowler’s end. He made 10 and Zimbabwe were 154 for seven.

Gary Brent failed to score, moving across his stumps too far to Moody and being hit on the pad right in front for a clear lbw decision. The score was now 156 for eight. Then Andrew Whittall (1) played McGrath out to backward point and set off, over-eager in anticipation of a run, and a fine direct hit by Symonds ran him out before he could get home. In the 45th over Zimbabwe were 167 for nine, Flower still there on 75.

For the next few overs the main aim seemed to be to bat out the fifty overs. Runs were not easy to come by, and Symonds began the last over to Flower with the score on 180 for nine. Flower stepped down the pitch to his first ball and lashed it over extra cover for six, then drive a single to long-off. Mutendera then pulled the next ball over midwicket for four and drove a single to long-off. Trying to pull the fifth ball, he edged the ball over the keeper’s head for two and then swung the final ball over midwicket for six to finish on 99 off 111 balls. Zimbabwe finished on 200 for nine, with Flower on 99 and Mutendera 8, considerably higher than had looked likely at most stages of the innings.

However, it was never going to be a total fit to challenge the Australian batting with Zimbabwe's weak attack. Gilchrist tried to get the match over with quickly, hitting three fours in an over off Mutendera, but his poor form against Zimbabwe was to continue. He had a moment of indiscretion, slashing at Mutendera with a diagonal bat and sending a regulation catch to the keeper. He made 28, and Australia were 44 for one.

Bevan appeared in the unaccustomed position of number three, while Blignaut replaced Rennie, only to be pulled by Ponting just clear of long-leg fielder Madondo for six. The scoring rate slowed, and Bevan took a long time to get off the mark, playing himself in very carefully – virtually a new experience for him, as he usually comes in at about number seven when the run chase is on.

This turned out to be Zimbabwe's last success of the day. Bevan took a long time to get moving, but once he did he gradually closed the gap on Ponting, who went through some strangely quiet periods but never looked likely to give his wicket away. He had one narrow escape in the thirties when he snicked Blignaut very low to Johnson at slip and the fielder was not quite able to get his hands underneath in time. His fifty came after a subdued period, but took him only 63 balls altogether. The bowlers did not feed him quite as many short balls as they had the previous day, but they still came and they were still punished ruthlessly. It was made easier for the batsmen by the bowlers’ inexperience and inability to bowl consistently to their fields.

Brent and Whittall temporarily put a brake on the scoring. Trying to break the shackles, Ponting skyed a ball from Brent over mid-on, just over the head of the fielder, then snicked a ball through the vacant slips to the boundary, and finally turned one more securely to the fine-leg boundary. Zimbabwe could consider themselves unlucky that nothing was going to hand.

Bevan played a superb stroke, stepping down the pitch to Rennie and then driving him on the up straight to the sightscreen; he followed this with a cracking boundary wide of mid-off. Following a single, Ponting pulled Rennie to deep midwicket and the Australians were positively galloping towards victory. Australia had another slice of luck when an off-drive from Bevan narrowly cleared mid-off on the way to the boundary.

This was the story of Zimbabwe's day in the field: they made few mistakes but failed to pull off any brilliant dismissals or enjoy any lucky breaks with a threadbare attack, and they were quite unable to make their own luck. The remaining runs came in ones and twos, with a dab to short third man by Bevan ending the match without excitement. Australia finished on 201 for one (Ponting 87, Bevan 77), with victory, as the previous day, by nine wickets.


Date-stamped : 24 Oct1999 - 19:12