ZIMBABWE finally gave local cricket fans something to smile about after recording their first win over Australia in 31 years with a three-wicket win over the world’s top-ranked ODI side in their third match of the ongoing triangular series at Harare Sports Club yesterday.
Until yesterday’s historic win – the first for Stephen Mangongo since he took over as the substantive national team coach – Australia had beaten the hosts in their last 27 ODIs, dating back to the famous World Cup win in 1983 until the class off 2014 scripted their own names in the history books.
The famous win which sparked wild celebrations from the boisterous home crowd that witnessed the match and also revived Zimbabwe’s hopes of reaching the tri-series final.
Man of the moment, Prosper Utseya (30), whose hat-trick could not inspire the side to a win over South Africa last Friday, took matters in his own hands, striking a six off the final ball of the 48th over as Zimbabwe finished on 211 for seven to win by three wickets with 12-balls to spare.
Utseya, who had earlier claimed two wickets as Zimbabwe restricted Australia to just 209 for nine was ably supported by skipper Elton Chigumbura, who played a real captain’s knock to finish unbeaten on 52 runs.
Chigumbura, who was named the man of the match, said he knew it was crucial for him to bat through Zimbabwe’s innings for the team to have a chance of winning.
“I had to be there till the end. The most important thing was to stay calm. The guys worked very hard for this and supporters were behind us throughout. We showed some improvement. We just have to keep working. Hopefully we will have another good game on Thursday. Prosper came in and said he wanted to be positive.
That was good for me because I could try and stay there,” he said.
For the second consecutive match Zimbabwe had bowled superbly in spin friendly conditions, after being sent in to field, restricting a star-studded Aussies batting line-up to a gettable 209 for nine in their allotted 50 overs, the tourists’ lowest ever ODI score against the hosts.
In fact it could have been much worse for the Aussies, who at one time looked like they would never come close to reaching 200, only for Zimbabwe to let themselves down with dropped catches.
Brad Haddin was one of the beneficiaries of Zimbabwe’s generosity in the field as he was put down three times on his way to a fighting 49.
Skipper Michael Clarke who, who briefly retired because of a recurrent hamstring strain before returning for the last two deliveries top scored with 68 runs.
Sean Williams was impressive, taking two wickets for just 22 runs in his 10 overs while the hat-trick hero from the last match Utseya claimed two wickets for 45 runs.
John Nyumbu and Malcolm Waller were also economical in their bowling as they claimed a wicket apiece.
While in the previous matches, Zimbabwe’s batting had failed to complement the solid foundation laid by the bowlers, yesterday they finally got it right, passing 200 runs for the first time in ODIs in seven outings.
Zimbabwe’s run chase got off to a promising start with the openers Tino Mawoyo and Raza putting 42 runs on the board for the opening stand before off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who took two quick wickets in successive overs soon after his introduction.
Lyon was expected to make the same almost the same the hosts’ spinners impact against the hosts and he showed why after removing Raza (22) and Mawoyo (15) in successive overs.
Brendan Taylor (32) and Hamilton Masakadza (18) rebuilt the innings with a 56-run partnership before just like the openers they were both dismissed in quick succession.
Masakadza was clean bowled by Starc after the hosts had just reached the 100-run mark in the 23rd over before Taylor followed him to the pavilion in the same manner, becoming Lyon’s third wicket.
Williams (4) became Lyon’s fourth victim, caught in the slips by Clarke while attempting a reverse sweep to the third man boundary.
When Waller returned a catch on Glen Maxwell in the 34th over, very few would have given Zimbabwe a chance to win on 142 for six.
Chigumbura, however, remained positive, briefly sharing a crucial 14-run partnership with Donald Tiripano (3) before combining with Utseya for the 55-run partnership which in the end won the match for Zimbabwe.
Australia play their next match against South Africa tomorrow. Zimbabwe will be hoping that Australia lose heavily in that match and they win in their last match against South Africa on Thursday to reach the tri-series final.