Australia A surged to a 90-run win over Zimbabwe XI in the opening match of the A Team Tri-Series on a bright, sunny day at Harare Sports Club on Wednesday.
Half-centuries from Nic Maddinson and Callum Ferguson carried the Australians to 232 for 8 and Zimbabwe XI reached 94 for 1 in reply before offspinner Nathan Lyon’s introduction prompted a dramatic collapse.
John Hastings scythed through the lower order and Zimbabwe XI slumped to 142 all out with 11 overs remaining, much to the disappointment of the spectators who had been tempted in by the prospect of free entrance to the game.
The Zimbabweans had put in a far more spirited performance with the ball than they did with the bat, seamer Chris Mpofu leading the way in a tight seven-over opening spell that yielded the wickets of openers David Warner and Aaron Finch.
Australia “A” were 33 for 2 with Finch’s dismissal, but recovered through a 98-run stand — the highest of the match — between Maddinson and Ferguson as Zimbabwe’s spinners uncharacteristically failed to exert any pressure.
Zimbabwe got the breakthrough when Maddinson was tempted out of his crease by Prosper Utseya’s flight and stumped for 63, and Mpofu then returned the attack to have Ferguson caught behind shortly after bringing up his fifty for this third wicket.
The Zimbabweans continued to chip away at the lower order and with runs not easy to come by on a spongy, early-season wicket Australia “A” were thankful for captain Tim Paine’s unbeaten 37, which ensured a competitive total.
In the event, it was more than enough. Brendan Taylor started well but chipped a return catch back to Luke Butterworth to be out for 17 in his first match as captain.
It still looked as though Zimbabwe XI would make a fist of their chase in the course of Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza’s patient 62-run partnership for the second wicket, but Lyons struck in his first over, removing Sibanda for 37, and from then on Australia “A” never lost their grip.
Lyons took the heart out of the middle order with the wickets of Regis Chakabva, for an eight-ball duck, and Craig Ervine, and Hastings then put paid to Zimbabwe XI’s hopes of salvaging the innings in the space of four deliveries.
After a frugal first spell, Hastings was brought back on and removed former national captain Elton Chigumbura and Forster Mutizwa with consecutive deliveries.
Utseya survived the hat-trick ball but was pinned in front of his stumps immediately afterwards to give Hastings his third wicket of the over and reduce Zimbabwe XI to 122 for 7. Masakadza brought up a fighting half-century but Lyon returned to get rid of allrounder Keegan Meth for his fourth wicket, and the win was quickly wrapped up thereafter.
Australia “A”, who face South Africa “A” at the same venue today, picked up a bonus point to take their tally for the match to five, while Zimbabwe XI remain pointless.