Easy win after sluggish start for Australia against Zimbabwe
What had started out looking like a strange tactic, to block out the first 20 overs without getting too many on board, turned into a reasonably well-laid plan as Australia beat Zimbabwe in the fourth World Cup 2011 game. And very comfortably at that.
A target of 263 was always going to be a stiff one for a batting team of the experience of Zimbabwe. Adding spice to the affair was the pace of the Australian bowlers, invigorated by a pitch that provided them with opportunity.
Under the best conditions a fully-fit Brett Lee and Shaun Tait with compass intact are difficult to face. When you come into the game with two successive warm-up losses to South Africa and Ireland thanks to woeful batting performances, Zimbabwe knew that they had much more than just their backs to the wall.
This is not to say that one wasn’t surprised at the barricading tactics used by Shane Watson and Brad Haddin at the top of the innings. At the end of the tenth over, the Aussies had less than 30 on board despite not having lost a wicket. After 20, they were 1/65.
Haddin batted like he had only just seen the video of Sunil Gavaskar’s sojourn in India’s first ever World Cup game against England in 1975. Watson was only slightly better. And yet, it was all a part of a tactic, to safeguard against a later collapse. It worked this time.
Thankfully, the necessary impetus was provided later by Watson (79) and the captain, who could have got to a lot more than a 36-ball 28.
It was neither Gary Pratt nor any other substitute, but a strong throw from the lanky Christopher Mpofu that found the stumps from the deep square-leg boundary to leave Ponting fuming.
Cameron White scratched around at the crease like he was against Curtly Ambrose on a cracking WACA track. His problems were accentuated by fact that Michael Clarke and the rest of the tail batted like the curator had hired the biggest infrastructure firm to build a highway on the pitch after he had got out.
90 came off the last ten overs that Australia batted. White faced 13 of those balls and made 10.
Seeming as aggressive as he had on his Test debut against India nearly seven years back, Clarke picked only four hits to the fence but came back unbeaten on 58 (55 balls). It was the kind of innings that would give a sense of ‘I-belong-here’ to a debutant.
With the form issues and off-field pressure that Clarke has suffered in recent times, he had shown himself that he truly belonged – albeit against a weaker bowling attack. Sterner tests will await him. Critics will continue to badger. But one can see him flower into something better from here.
Speaking of which, Zimbabwe would have secretly hoped for Andy or Grant Flower to have been a part of this batting. Some late fireworks from Graeme Cremer (37) boosted the side to 171. Sean Williams, batting at six was the next-best with 28.
Mitchell Johnson’s four-wicket haul for 19 made life difficult for the opposition from the time he had the ball in his hand. He will look to soak in the moment.
Jason Krejza also picked up a couple to boost his confidence going into the next, vital game against the Black Caps.