Zimbabwe have just their second victory over Australia after a 31-year drought, completing a three-wicket win with a six that sealed Australia’s embarassment at a below-par batting performance.
On a difficult and turning surface Australia’s vaunted batting line-up underperformed, with only a hamstrung Michael Clarke passing 50, and Zimbabwe made them pay, led by Elton Chigumbura’s stirring half-century.
The Zimbabwe skipper guided his team home by anchoring the innings with an unbeaten 52 from 68 balls, but the coup de grace was delivered by Prosper Utseya, who launched Mitchell Starc over the midwicket fence to complete the win with 12 balls to spare.
Earlier, all attention had focussed on the Australia skipper who had been forced to retire hurt after aggravating his left-hamstring injury.
Clarke was playing his first match of this tri-series having returned from a left hamstring strain when he was foreced to retire hurt on 68, having faced 102 balls. The captain walked off the Harare Sports Club field and the official word soon filtered through from the Australian dressing room that the captain was suffering from an “aggravation” of the hamstring injury incurred at Australia’s first training session after an extended journey from Sydney via Johannesburg.
Clarke returned for the final two balls of the innings with Australia nine wickets down, the first of which he spent at the non-striker’s end as Nathan Lyon blasted a six, and trundled through for a single off the last as Australia reached 9-209.
Quick Single: Clarke’s Harare hamstring pain
Clarke was desperate to play in this match, a decision that hindsight is especially harsh upon. The skipper has contemplated all manner of methods to combat the strain his degenerative back condition puts on his hamstrings, including flying ahead of the rest of the team to give himself longer to acclimatise.
However, for a time in Harare, Australia was thankful his left hamstring had healed enough to let him take his place in the XI. While he was there, Clarke played a lone hand as his teammates crumbled against Zimbabwe’s previously unheralded spin attack until Brad Haddin offered some lower-order resolve.
The very next ball after Clarke’s departure, James Faulkner also departed, the fifth wicket to fall to spin.
Clarke had announced the day before this match that Mitchell Johnson was to be rested in favour of Nathan Lyon, prompting some wags to joke Australia’s pace spearhead had been dropped for sharing a video of Prosper Utseya’s hat-trick.
The reference to the trials of Tinashe Panyangara, the Zimbabwe seamer kicked out of the host nation’s tri-series squad for jesting with his team’s batsmen by sharing a video of Johnson’s thunderbolts against England last November, may have raised a wry smile before the match but Australia’s batsmen were not laughing.
The slow deck saw Australia crawl to a miserly 1-30 after the opening 10 overs, Aaron Finch (11) the wicket to fall after some sluggish footwork to John Nyumbu.
Hughes struggled against the turn and departed for 10 when he mistimed a sweep for the ball to lob off the edge to first slip.
Finch was one of three recognised batsmen who had their stumps disturbed by spinners – George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell the others. Bailey (1) had taken guard outside the leg stump, only to be squared up and see Sean Williams’ off-break spin past the bat and into his off-stump.
Maxwell (13) had blasted the innings only six before he played for turn but was beaten by the arm ball of part-timer Malcolm Waller.
Mitchell Marsh was dropped on zero, a relatively simple chance by a fielder under the helmet just behind square on the leg-side.
The allrounder dug in, but was uprooted for 15 from 37 balls, driving through the line on the slow pitch only to see the low chance caught at cover off the cross-seam of Donald Tiripano.
Waller should have had a second when Brad Haddin skied an attempted slog-sweep when on five, only for the bowler to make a mess of the chance running back towards mid-on.
Haddin had a charmed existence – dropped again when a sharp return chance dropped by seamer Chatara, given not out on 15 to the spin of Williams after the ball was judged to have pitched outside leg, only for replays to show it had pitched in line.
He was dropped again on 17, a simple chance at leg gully from a skied effort off another attempted slog-sweep put down behind the wicketkeeper. The next ball he faced went for six over mid-on.
Haddin was a spectator at the non-striker’s end as Clarke, Faulkner and Starc (bowled Williams for three), all departed.
Australia’s wicketkeeper eventually departed for 49, caught in the deep chasing quick runs.
Australia’s XI: Aaron Finch, Phil Hughes, Michael Clarke (c), George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Brad Haddin (wk), James Faulkner, Ben Cutting, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon (12th man tbc)
Zimbabwe XI: Tino Mawoyo,Sikandar Raza, Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams, Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura (c), Prosper Utseya, John Nyumbu, Tendai Chatara, Donald Tiripano (12th man )
Via Cricket Australia