AUSTRALIA had pledged to show no mercy against Zimbabwe and they certainly honoured their promise with a ruthless display with both bat and ball to win the opening match of the triangular cricket series by 198 runs at Harare Sports Club yesterday.
After breaking the all-time one-day international (ODI) record score at Harare Sports Club by scoring 350 runs, the Aussies bowlers produced an all-round performance to bowl out the hosts for 152 runs in 39,3 overs.
Despite a fluent 70 by Hamilton Masakadza, Zimbabwe lost wickets at regular intervals with all-rounder Steven Smith claiming three wickets for 16 runs in just four overs while Mitchell Starc and off-spinner Nathan Lyon claimed two wickets apiece.
Zimbabwe had earlier won the toss and elected to bowl first on a wicket that was expected to assist the bowlers in the morning before become slower as the day progressed.
Australia, led by half centuries from Aaron Finch (67), Mitchell Marsh (89) and Glen Maxwell (93), put the game beyond the reach of the hosts after reaching 350 for six in their allotted 50 overs.
The tourists’ huge total in the process broke the hosts’ all-time ODI record score at Harare Sports Club previously held by Zimbabwe when they scored 340 for two against Namibia in a World Cup game in 2003.
Maxwell ensured Australia set a mammoth score with his knock of 93 runs coming off just 46 deliveries including nine fours and five sixes as the hosts added 146 runs from their last 10 overs.
The 29-year-old right hander shared a 109-run fourth wicket stand with Mitchell Marsh who was equally aggressive on his way to 89 off 83 balls.
Paceman Mitchell Johnson added a few more nasty blows towards the end of the innings with 20 off 10 deliveries which included a huge six that smashed the window in front of the commentary box.
The Aussie batsman took a particular liking to Tinashe Panyangara’s bowling taking him for 68 runs off his seven overs while Tendai Chatara took two wickets in his nine overs which went for 77 runs.
After Zimbabwe’s run chase got off to the worst possible start with the loss of Tino Mawoyo in the second over, Sikandar Raza (33) and Masakadza rebuilt with a 63-run partnership.
That would be Zimbabwe’s only partnership of significance as they lost wickets at regular intervals thereafter. Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura said his charges would need to improve their batting.
“We have to keep working hard and play a different game next time. The main focus is on our batting, but we keep losing wickets, we have two more games so have to keep working hard. We need to lift our spirits and hopefully things will change in the next game,” said Chigumbura.
Australia stand-in skipper George Bailey was full of praise for his charges’ all-round performance with both bat and ball.
“Outstanding stand from Finch and Haddin and great innings from Mitch (Marsh) and Maxi (Glen Maxwell) took us to a huge total. And great work from our bowlers too,” he said.
Raza had looked in good form before he swept Lyon straight to backward square leg leaving the hosts on 64 for two and still needing 287 runs from 36 overs.
Taylor managed 10 runs before being undone by Johnson’s pace and bounce before Chigumbura top edged James Faulkner to the wicketkeeper for a duck to leave the hosts in trouble at 86 for four.
The team’s skipper was hit on the helmet by a vicious short ball by Johnson.
After the dismissal of Williams for a single the very next over, Zimbabwe were in real danger of being bowled out cheaply and that is what is exactly what happened.
Wicketkeeper batsman Richmond Mutumbami (11) added 29 runs with Masakadza for the sixth wicket partnership, but Zimbabwe had already lost too many wickets to mount a fight back.
Australia, who now leads the standings after yesterday’s bonus point win play South Africa in the next match tomorrow.