Zimbabwe v Australia at Harare
14-18 Oct 1999 (John Ward)

Day1 | Day2 | Day3 | Day4

Day1: Australia on top in historic Test

Alistair Campbell won the toss and chose to bat at the new-look Harare Sports Club ground before the start of the inaugural and one-off Test match between Zimbabwe and Australia. The Zimbabwe score was immediately under way, courtesy of a no-ball down the leg side by Glenn McGrath to the left-handed Gavin Rennie. Damien Fleming then bowled from the City (south) end to Grant Flower. It was a rare sight to see a pace bowler using a sensible run-up; Fleming takes only four walking and ten running paces to reach the crease. In Fleming's second over Flower (1) received a superb delivery that swung away and bounced, taking the edge of the bat to be caught by Ricky Ponting at third slip.

In came Murray Goodwin to play against his temporarily adopted country. He pushed his first ball towards cover, and then insanity took over. He went charging down the pitch for a risky single as Greg Blewett ran in to field, and had covered about eight yards by the time he realised that Rennie was not having any of it. He narrowly failed to beat the throw, and Zimbabwe were reduced to 6 for two. 

Zimbabwe were right in the cart, and Alistair Campbell, looking as calm as ever, dug in with Rennie to rescue the situation. Runs were at a premium against attacking bowling until Campbell drove Fleming effortlessly through extra cover for three. The first boundaries came after 38 minutes, as Rennie took two thick-edged fours off successive balls through the gap between third slip and gully. 

Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, Campbell's ability to take charge in a crisis has rarely been in evidence recently. Playing slightly loosely outside off stump, he paid the penalty as he snicked a low catch to the finer of the two gullies. Michael Slater threw himself to his right to take a superb low catch; Campbell was out for 5 and Zimbabwe were 22 for three. The bowling by both bowlers was consistently superb, giving the batsmen no room for error at any time, although Andy Flower appeared unflustered. But Gavin Rennie's demise came in McGrath's tenth over, when he played back to a ball moving away; the ball came off the edge to be caught by Ponting at third slip. Zimbabwe were further in trouble at 37 for four as Neil Johnson, another left-hander, joined Flower. 

Johnson as usual was prepared to go for his strokes from the start, and almost got an edge hooking at Colin Miller, who had temporarily replaced Fleming.  Zimbabwe went in to lunch on 65 for four, with Flower on 8 and Johnson 21. Apart from Goodwin's impetuosity, all the batsmen out had been beaten by superb bowling. The crowd had swollen gradually during the morning until there was no doubt that they outnumbered both the press contingent and the ground staff. 

After lunch the runs came slowly as Andy Flower and Neil Johnson prepared for the enormous task still ahead of them. Then Flower decided to take the initiative with Warne, sweeping him for two and then a powerful four off successive balls. Johnson on 26 was beaten by Warne's leg-break, which cleared his off bail by the narrowest of margins, and seemed to have lost some of his confidence and fluency. Finally, though, he picked up a half-volley from Warne and put it through midwicket for four; the next ball would have gone the same way through the covers but for a fine save by Steve Waugh.

Afternoon drinks seemed to supply the break the Australians needed. Soon afterwards, Andy Flower (28) was beaten by another superb delivery from McGrath which caught the edge of his bat and was held by Mark Waugh at second slip. Zimbabwe were now 107 for 5.

The wicket brought in Test debutant Trevor Gripper. Gripper was drafted into the squad after a fine defensive innings opening the batting in the Bulawayo warm-up match and unexpectedly given a place in the final team after the selectors decided to go for the extra batsman in place of sole spinner Andrew Whittall. Gripper got off the mark quickly and then concentrated on keeping his end up in support of Johnson. Johnson went into his shell somewhat in the forties, but Gripper surprised with a neat on-drive off McGrath for two. Johnson remained becalmed on 48, his score at tea, when Zimbabwe had progressed painfully to 119 for five, while Gripper had 4. 59 overs had been bowled, giving a scoring rate of fractionally over two an over. However, it was absorbing cricket. 

Gripper did not last long after tea. Deceived by Warne’s top-spinner, he prodded half forward and was hit on the front pad to be given out fairly clearly lbw, for his tea-time score of 4. The score was now 119 for six. Streak, in next ahead of the out-of-form Guy Whittall, had the benefit of a full toss first ball; perhaps taken by surprise, he jabbed it towards wide mid-on, where a misfield allowed him a single. Johnson was making painful progress, reminiscent of some of his best World Cup efforts where he had a tendency to slow down late in his innings. Finally he reached his fifty, which took him 143 balls, with a nudge to fine leg off Miller. Warne broke through again with the wicket of Streak, who played forward to a sharply-spinning leg-break, to give first slip a straight-forward catch, a classic dismissal. Streak made 3, and Zimbabwe's score had declined further to 125 for seven. 

Guy Whittall, doubtless stung by his demotion to number nine, took advantage of a short wide ball from Warne to slash him through the covers for four, and his whole demeanour seemed to suggest that Zimbabwe no longer had their backs to the wall. Johnson seemed to pick up the idea again and slashed Warne into the covers; only fine fielding by Steve Waugh saved the four. However, Miller at the other end would do for him, and he swung the ball to the square-leg boundary. Warne, not as accurate as usual, bowled one wide of the off stump, and Whittall cut it hard for four to bring up the 150 for Zimbabwe. Warne, however, achieved the next break-through, with another leg-break that took the edge of Whittall’s bat and was caught by the keeper. He made 27, and the score was now 165 for eight. 

With Bryan Strang playing an eventful knock, Johnson suddenly remembered how to do it. He pulled Warne for four wide of mid-on and then hit him over his head for a six to the sightscreen.  Steve Waugh called for the second new ball in the 83rd over. Johnson edged the third ball from McGrath, but it just fell short of third slip. Two balls later, though, a vicious flyer ended his innings for 75, flying off his bat to Mark Waugh at second slip. The Zimbabwean innings ended in foolishness, as Olonga, on strike again and perhaps intoxicated with his first successful firm stroke, called for a dangerous single into the covers and Strang, unable to make his ground, was run out for 17. The Zimbabwe innings ended on 194, with Olonga having preserved his own wicket but without a run to his credit.

McGrath and Warne took three wickets each and Fleming two; all had bowled superbly, although Warne was perhaps not as accurate as usual. Slater and Blewett played out the final three overs of the day.

Day2: Zimbabwe need quick breakthrough to stay in game

Australia's plan for the day was to build up a huge first-innings lead over Zimbabwe, with a target of at least 450 according to their captain Steve Waugh. They probably found the going much tougher than they expected, and had the luck gone Zimbabwe's way they might well have found themselves struggling to make much more than 250.

The day was dominated by the Waugh brothers with the bat and Zimbabwe's sterling efforts in the field, relying much more on perspiration than inspiration or fortune. They bowled very well on the whole, notably Heath Streak and Bryan Strang, despite limited resources, while their fielding was committed, although occasionally fallible.

They began the day with a major boost. After two harmless-looking balls from Streak to Greg Blewett, the bowler produced a ball that swung and moved away from the batsman. Blewett tried at the last moment to withdraw his bat, unsuccessfully, and the chance flew straight to Campbell at first slip, who clutched at it, dropped it, and then seized it in his left hand just before it hit the ground. Blewett was out for 1, and the total was 8 for one.

At the other end Strang replaced Henry Olonga, who had been erratic in his two overs on the first day. This was to prove an inspired move; Strang is at his best with the new ball, but rarely gets it because he bowls at little more than medium-pace. With his second ball of the day Strang, bowling left-arm over the wicket, moved the ball away slightly from Michael Slater, who played down the wrong line and edged a straight-forward catch to the keeper. Slater was also out for his overnight score of 4, and the score was 8 for two. Suddenly the gap between the teams did not appear so great after all.

Mark Waugh and Justin Langer looked to bring about a recovery in the traditionally positive Australian way, and expertly chose the loose balls to hit for four. Zimbabwe, with Streak and Strang both bowling well, did not find luck going their way. Strang had a good lbw shout against Waugh rejected, the ball moving back to hit his pad as he played no stroke; perhaps umpire George Sharp thought it may have cleared the stumps. Waugh retaliated with a sparkling cover drive for four.

In the next over Langer almost popped a catch to short leg Gavin Rennie off Streak. When Waugh faced Streak for the first time, he too was hit when playing no stroke by a ball from Streak that moved back unexpectedly. Neil Johnson replaced Streak, and Langer was fortunate to get away with an inside edge that missed the stumps and brought him four runs to fine leg. Then Langer enjoyed another escape against Strang, shouldering arms to another ball that passed dangerously close to his off stump. The batsman seemed to be enjoying charmed lives, as Olonga beat Langer outside off stump and then almost had him playing on. In between escapes he played some fine strokes, and off-drove Whittall for another boundary.

The vital breakthrough finally came when Langer turned Whittall past square leg and came back for the second, but the speed of Olonga in the field took him by surprise, and he was run out by a clear yard. He scored 44, and the score was 96 for three. At lunch the score had progressed to 103 for three, with Mark Waugh on 42 and Steve 7.

Australia could well have lost another wicket to the second ball after lunch, as Streak produced a quick delivery that appeared to beat Mark forpace; it was not readily apparent why umpire Ian Robinson rejected the lbw appeal. At the other end Strang almost induced a nick from Steve and Australia were looking rather shaky. Warily the batsmen advanced the score, until a scampered single brought Mark to his fifty, scored off 98 balls. He celebrated with a classic cover drive for four off Streak, followed in Streak's next over with a skilful cut between slips and gully. In contrast Steve was very slow to get going again, scoring only six runs in 55 minutes after lunch before suddenly off-driving Whittall for four, and then hitting Olonga to the cover boundary. On 30, though, a confident appeal for a catch at the wicket off Streak was rejected by umpire Robinson.

It began to look as if Mark Waugh, scorer of so many centuries off Zimbabwean bowling, was about to score another. However, on 90 he on-drove Grant Flower slightly uppishly, and the bowler flung himself low and far to his right to bring off a fine catch. Australia were now 174 for four, and played quietly to reach 181 for four at tea, with Steve Waugh on 32 and Ricky Ponting 5. Steve had scored just 25 runs in the two-hour session, obviously keeping his 450 target in mind, however long it took.

After tea Waugh was given a life on 39 when he flicked Streak low to Olonga at square leg, but the chance went down. He celebrated his life with a drive to the boundary through extra cover, and shortly afterwards hit Olonga for four through the covers to reach his fifty. Fine off-side driving was the main characteristic of his innings as the Zimbabweans gave him little to hit on the leg side. He had a number of narrow escapes but gave only one real chance, and the Zimbabweans were to learn the same lesson that other teams have learned the hard way -- it never pays to give Steve Waugh a life as he never gives anything away.

Ponting did not enjoy the luck of his captain when he got a top edge hooking at Streak. The ball flew over the slips but Johnson, running back, took a fine diving catch over his head. Ponting made 31, and Australia were 253 for five. Steve at this stage was on 75.

The out-of-form wicket-keeper Ian Healy was another to benefit from Lady Luck. Struggling to get off the mark, he finally popped a ball just over bowler Streak's head for a single. Then a top-edged hook off Strang just cleared Streak at midwicket.

Waugh speeded up when Whittall came on for Streak, scoring 10 runs off the over and taking his score to 90. He was content to remain on that score overnight, when the total was 275 for five, with Healy on 5. The struggle continues tomorrow, with Zimbabwe needing a quick breakthrough to stay in the game.

Day3: Zimbabwe fighting to stay in Test

Zimbabwe struck with the very first ball of the day. Bryan Strang took Healy (5) by surprise with a bumper heading straight for his face; the batsman tried to dodge at the last moment, instinctively trying to play it, and was given out caught at the wicket off the glove by umpire George Sharp. Shane Warne did not last long; fending at a delivery from Streak just outside the off stump, he edged a catch to the keeper after scoring 6 runs, reducing Australia to 282 for seven. 

Inevitably Steve Waugh (90* overnight) moved to his 20th Test century, slashing Streak through the covers to reach three figures off 231 balls. Zimbabwe missed another golden opportunity to dismiss Waugh (94) when he slashed to backward point, only for the chance to pop out of Grant Flower’s hands. Like other sides before them, Zimbabwe have to learn the hard way that dropping Steve Waugh carries a very heavy penalty. Damien Fleming played his strokes like a class batsman and Olonga, although comparatively accurate, could not work up enough pace to trouble him.  In one over he hit Olonga for two fours, past mid-off and extra cover respectively, and next over reached his second Test fifty off 55 balls with a fine drive through extra cover. He remained very much the dominant partner in his stand with Waugh, at this stage he had 51 out of the 68 they had added together. 

Fleming became strangely becalmed after reaching his fifty, while Waugh continued to accumulate as his steady pace. Another chance went down as Fleming drove uppishly to mid-on off Flower, but Streak failed to hold a difficult low catch. Australia went in to lunch on 380 for seven. Zimbabwe's self-inflicted suffering continued for half an hour after lunch as Australia’s eighth-wicket partnership, having profited from three lives, passed 100. The pair took their stand to 116 with more quiet accumulation before Streak finally broke through, rapping Fleming (65) on the pads as he played back and getting the lbw decision from umpire Robinson.

Miller immediately showed he is no monkey with the bat by off-driving Streak handsomely for two, but then spoilt it by flashing at the next ball and presenting Johnson at first slip with a shoulder-high catch just to his right. It was Streak’s fifth wicket of the innings, his fourth five-wicket haul in Tests cricket.

McGrath brought up the 400 for Australia with a single wide of mid-on, and demonstrated his improved batting prowess by lofting Strang over the vacant mid-off for four. He reached double figures by clipping Streak wide of midwicket. Waugh seemed quite unconcerned about dominating the bowling even now, but finally passed 150 by clipping Whittall to long leg for two. Whittall finally ended the Australian innings four balls after the drinks break. McGrath drove at him outside off stump and Johnson took another good catch at first slip, diving low to his left. Australia were all out for 422, McGrath out for 13 and Waugh seemingly unconcerned at adding another not-out innings to his tally in Test cricket (151*) although he owed that to Lady Luck and the generosity of the Zimbabwean fielders. Had they held their catches, Zimbabwe should have dismissed Australia for well under 300. Zimbabwe opened their second innings with a change of order, sending Trevor Gripper in to open with Grant Flower.  The Australian bowling was testing but not as inspired as in the first innings, while the aim of the Zimbabwean openers seemed to be to survive until tea at all costs... preferably tea on Monday. They duly succeeded, and at the interval Zimbabwe were 9 without loss off 12 overs.

Grant Flower caused a stir by taking a single off the first ball after tea, from Miller, and when Gripper turned a two forward of square leg and then a single to fine leg the score was positively galloping along. Gripper almost committed suicide in the same way that two of his colleagues did in the first innings, taking a risky single to point; he would have been given his marching orders had not the bowler Warne accidentally broken the wicket just before the ball hit the stump in question. In the next over McGrath beat Gripper outside off stump and vehemently appealed for a catch at the wicket, which was rejected by umpire Sharp, a decision which the television replay seemed to confirm.

Runs continued to come off Fleming, bring to life the crowd, for whom the alcohol always begins to take effect at this time of day. The policy now appeared to be to look for ones and twos, and some quick singles were scampered. The first boundary of the innings did not come until the 21st over, when Flower on-drove Warne for four. The fifty came up immediately after the break as Flower turned Warne for two past midwicket and then drove him superbly through the covers to the boundary. 

Warne became frustrated and umpire Robinson had to have a word with him after an aggressive and unnecessary appeal for lbw off the last ball of the over. It was McGrath who finally struck from the other end, moving a ball in sharply from the off to trap Flower (32) lbw as he pushed forward. Umpire Sharp made the decision, although the television replay suggested there was a chance the ball might have just missed leg stump. Zimbabwe were 56 for 1. Murray Goodwin, having made a golden duck in the first innings, finally got off the mark, off his 24th ball and after 35 minutes, by steering Fleming between third slip and gully to the boundary. When Miller came on to bowl his off-breaks, he cut his first ball fiercely for four, and then swept the last ball of the day for three. Zimbabwe finished on 80 for one, still 148 runs behind, with Gripper on 25 and Goodwin 11.

Day4: Australia win by 10 wickets

At the afternoon drinks break, Zimbabwe were 198 for two wickets and making Australia fight every inch of the way for victory.  Perhaps those drinks were spiked, but Zimbabwe afterwards were completely unrecognisable as the same team.  The last eight wickets, many of them to soft dismissals, fell for only 32 runs as what looked like being Zimbabwe's greatest fightback degenerated into the worst batting collapse in their 34-match Test history. During the day it was announced that Tests between the two teams would be played for the Southern Cross Trophy, and Australia's ten-wicket victory made them the first holders.

As was said in the Zimbabwe camp before play began, had the chances been taken during the Australian innings Zimbabwe would now be batting in an effort to win the match rather than save it.  However the mood seemed to be, as evidenced on the evening of the fourth day, that Zimbabwe were prepared to fight like tigers to make the Australians' task as difficult as possible.  Their first aim was to wipe off the remaining deficit of 148, and then to bat out the rest of the day.  They achieved the first - just -but threw away their chances of managing the second.

Gripper and Goodwin began positively, keeping the ones and twos ticking over, while Goodwin cracked two off-side fours in McGrath's second over.  Gripper then got under way for the day by turning a ball from Warne wide of mid-on for four.

The hundredth came up in the 51st over, and in the 54th the overall scoring rate exceeded two runs per over for the first time during the innings.  Goodwin celebrated with a cracking pull for four off McGrath. Runs continued to come steadily as Fleming replaced McGrath.

Gripper began to look increasingly confident, and played a fine off-drive, hit on the up, off Fleming to take his score to 47.  He reached his fifty with a push past short midwicket; it took him 246 minutes and 194 balls.  He had a fortunate escape on 53 when he attempted a lofted drive off Warne, mistimed it and it lobbed between mid-off and extra cover for two.  Unfazed by this, he then drove Warne to the midwicket boundary.  At 59 he enjoyed another narrow escape, coming very close to playing Colin Miller, bowling his off-breaks, on to his stumps in a tangle of bat and pads.

Gripper finally fell on the stroke of lunch for 60, playing back to Miller but beaten by a ball that spun sharply and trapped lbw right in front of the stumps.  Zimbabwe went in to lunch on 154 for two, after a fine fighting partnership of 98.  Gripper had played a superb innings on his debut, batting for 239 balls, a particularly fine effort for one who has played so little first-class cricket.

With the second new ball available in less than three overs, regular opener Gavin Rennie came in to join Goodwin.  The latter got the score moving again with a boundary wide of mid-on off a full toss from Warne, which also brought up his fifty, off 135 balls.  The next ball brought some drama, as Goodwin drove Warne straight into the stumps at the far end with Rennie backing up out of his crease.  Warne dived for it and claimed he had got his fingers to it and that Rennie was run out.  After some discussion his appeal was rejected by umpire Robinson and the television replay showed that in fact Warne had not touched the ball. 

Rennie, who has a dour reputation, began quite fluently and played some delicate late cuts off the off-spin of Miller, as Australia delayed taking the second new ball, and then swung Warne to the midwicket boundary. The new ball finally came after 88 overs, slowing down the scoring but without taking another wicket.  The score at the drinks break was 198 for two (Goodwin 67, Rennie 23), with no indication of the dramatic events to follow.

Immediately after the 200 came up Rennie fell for 23, cutting once too often at Miller and getting a top edge, to be caught at backward point by McGrath.  Alistair Campbell replaced him, but never looked comfortable.

Then came Zimbabwe's third foolish run-out of the match, as Campbell pushed a ball just past the short-leg fielder, and both batsmen started off hesitantly; by the time common sense got the better of them it was too late and Campbell was stranded by Slater's throw as he ran in from the covers. Campbell made 1, and Zimbabwe were now 208 for four.

Andy Flower looked most unconvincing as he struggled, but failed, to score. Zimbabwe's running between wickets seemed to have unnerved their batsmen, as there were a couple of false starts for unlikely runs, with Goodwin the main culprit.  Eventually, after facing 11 balls without scoring, Flower poked uncharacteristically at a ball from McGrath outside the off stump and steered the ball easily into Healy's gloves.  Immediately the teams took tea, with Zimbabwe in steady decline at 211 for five and Goodwin still there, despite his efforts to run himself out, on 79.

Neil Johnson got off the mark rather fortuitously, lashing at Miller, who was getting considerable turn from his off-breaks, and slicing a ball just past slip for four.  He never looked comfortable, and soon became the next victim of the slump, failing to get across to a ball from McGrath moving away from him and edging a low catch to Mark Waugh at second slip. He made 5, and Zimbabwe were now 220 for six, still needing 18 runs to make Australia bat again.

Goodwin enjoyed an escape on 86, when a ball from Miller hit his pad, then rebounded via his bat to silly point, who was unable to hold it.  He soon lost Guy Whittall, though, who played forward to a sharp spinner from Waugh and edged a catch straight to Mark Waugh at slip for 2.  Zimbabwe were now 227 for seven.

Heath Streak did not last long, playing back and trapped lbw by another leg-spinner from Warne, although there was a suspicion that the ball pitched outside leg stump.  Zimbabwe were still one short of making Australia bat again, at 227 for eight.  Goodwin quickly put that to rights, though, swinging Miller to midwicket for four.  Strang for once decided that pads were at times more effective than the bat, although he was probably concerned with supporting Goodwin.  In this he failed dismally, pushing a ball straight to short leg without scoring, and reducing Zimbabwe further to 232 to nine.

To the very next ball Goodwin, on 91, slammed a ball from Warne well wide of the off stump with unerring accuracy straight at Steve Waugh at cover, and the transformation was complete: from 200 for two, Zimbabwe had collapsed to 232 all out, and one of the most heroic fightbacks had given way to one of the most reprehensible of collapses.  Australia needed just five runs to win, and Goodwin, who had fought all the way despite occasional slices of luck, had been robbed of a possible century by the incompetence of the middle order and tail.

Australia have failed in some vital run chases in the past, but there was little danger in their failing to handle their target of 5 against Zimbabwe.  Greg Blewett did not begin too impressively, hooking wildly at a bouncer from Strang directed outside off stump, but two balls later crashed a much more controlled hook into the boundary at square leg.  The end of the match came with a gesture symbolic of Zimbabwe's capitulation since afternoon drinks: Strang bowled a wide outside off stump and Australia were home.  Blewett had 4 to his credit, while Michael Slater did not face a ball.

A presentation ceremony took place, with the Southern Cross Trophy being presented to Steve Waugh, who also won the Man of the Match award for his monumental 151.  As befits the world champions in both forms of the game, Australia had maintained their persistence and pressure from beginning to end, and taught Zimbabwe some important lessons.

At the press conference Steve Waugh praised Zimbabwe's bowling in particular, and paid tribute to the way they made Australia fight throughout their innings.  He had never faced a bowler like Bryan Strang before, left-arm medium-fast, primarily a swing bowler but one who ran his fingers across the seam as well.  He admitted his century had been a rather luck innings, but said it was the first time he had enjoyed any luck in the nineties.  It was refreshing, he said, to play a team that concentrated simply on playing cricket and getting on with the game, and he would welcome the opportunity to play Zimbabwe more regularly.  But he felt Zimbabwe needed to learn to take the opportunities that came their way; had they held their catches, it would have been a different game.  Zimbabwe made crucial errors at the wrong time.  Alistair Campbell agreed that Zimbabwe had to learn from the Australians how to keep the pressure on.


Date-stamped : 17 Oct1999 - 19:27