Three quick wickets by Australia ‘A’ towards the close of play left the tourists in control of the first Castle Lager four-day series match against Zimbabwe XI at the close of day one at the High Performance Centre at the Country Club Saturday.
Off spinner Jason John Krejza was the chief tormentor with three wickets for 24 runs in 12 overs, with two wickets coming in his last two overs as Zimbabwe XI finished on 206 for six for 93 overs.
Led by a carefully crafted 91 from 214 balls by stand-in skipper Vusi Sibanda, Zimbabwe XI were in a comfortable position on 201 for three with only five overs left in the final session.
However a sustained period of pressure by the Australian bowlers resulted in Zimbabwe XI relinquishing the control as the tourists struck three crucial wickets right at the dearth.
Sibanda admitted the Aussies would be the more satisfied of the two teams following the quick wickets on what he described as a good batting track.
“The quick wickets obviously give them a sniff of a chance and boost their confidence but I think we started off pretty well and losing the last three wickets towards stumps was rather unfortunate.
“We would have loved to be three down by end of play today (yesterday) but it happens in cricket and we have to carry ourselves up and ensure we do well tomorrow (today),” said Sibanda.
Sibanda and fellow opener Tino Mawoyo (39) gave the hosts the ideal start with a first wicket partnership stand of 117 runs.
The Aussies had to wait until the 54th over for their first wicket when Mawoyo who had earlier been dropped on 24 was stumped off the bowling of left arm spinner Michael Beer.
There was always a danger of Zimbabwe XI losing quick wickets soon after the big partnership and when Hamilton Masakadza was run out for 12 runs after a mix-up with Sibanda alarm bells started ringing.
However, Sibanda and wicketkeeper batsman Regis Chakabva steadied the ship with a 33-run partnership before Sibanda was caught at mid-off by Peter Siddle off the bowling Krejza attempting to hit him for a second consecutive six.
With close of play looming the Aussies kept on applying the pressure as they nipped the smooth flow of runs and it yielded the wicket of Chakabva who looked well set on 28.
The promising 23-year old Mashonaland Eagles player was clean bowled by Krejza in the 87th over attempting a slog sweep.
Night watchman Keegan Meth departed two overs later without troubling the scorers after being caught at first slip off Trent Copeland before the Aussies capped off a fruitful final session with the important wicket of Craig Ervine for 21 runs.