In a major shock Zimbabwe defeated Australia by seven wickets in the fourth match of the ODI tri-series in Harare on Sunday.
Zimbabwe, first, restricted Australia to 209 for nine in 50 overs and then, led by skipper Elton Chigumbura's 52 not out, chased down the target in 48 overs. This is a historic win for Zimbabwe and is only their second victory over Australia in limited overs international cricket.
The first win came way back in the 1983 World Cup at Trent Bridge in England. Interestingly, Duncan Fletcher, present India coach, was the captain of Zimbabwe in that game.
Chasing a score of 210 was never going to be a foregone conclusion for an inexperienced batting lineup on a pitch that afforded plenty of turn. Chigumbura, with his calm 52 not out, held the lower order together as he ensured that Zimbabwe would obtain victory over Australia.
Zimbabwe started their innings in a slow but steady manner. Chasing a score of 210, they did not need to go hammer and tongs at the bowling. The openers Sikandar Raza and Tino Mawoyo were intent on laying a foundation for the batsmen to follow as they put on 42 runs for the first wicket.
As the score was on 42 in the 12th over, off-spinner Nathan Lyon had Raza caught at slip by substitute Steve Smith. Lyon then managed to procure another breakthrough for his team as he had Mawoyo bowled with Zimbabwe on 44.
A partnership was needed now as middle order batsmen Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor came to the crease. With the Aussie bowlers on top, Taylor thought he would put the pressure back on Australia as he went after their bowlers.
Part-time spinner Aaron Finch was hammered by Taylor for two fours in the 17th over. Taylor and Masakadza put on 56 runs for the third wicket before they were separated. Left-arm seamer Mitchell Starc had Masakadza bowled for 18.
Taylor (32, 26b) soon followed after being castled by Lyon, leaving Zimbabwe on 102 for 4. Lyon then struck again as he had left-hand batsman Sean Williams caught by skipper Michael Clarke. Zimbabwe were now in a spot of bother. This brought Chigumbura to the crease. At the other end, there was right-hand batsman Malcolm Waller.
Chigumbura and Waller took the score to 142, before the latter was caught and bowled by Glen Maxwell. This brought right-handed batsman Donald Tiripano to the crease but he could not do much as Starc bowled him for two. With Zimbabwe at 156 for 7 the Aussies had clawed their way into the game and it seemed now they could go an and close out a victory.
Chigumbura and Prosper Utseya, however, had other ideas. Chigumbura, realising the need for him to stay till the end, kept the scoreboard moving with ones and twos whereas Utseya chanced his arm as he hit a four off Starc in the 39th over. Chigumbura soon joined in with a four off all-rounder Mitchell Marsh in the 43rd over.
Both Utseya and Chigumbura saw to it the runs kept coming. Suddenly, only 11 runs were required from 24 balls. At this stage Clarke brought himself on. The skipper, however, failed to make a breakthrough.
Zimbabwe, at this point, were only nine runs away from victory and had three overs in hand. Starc desperately needed to strike, but could not as Utseya finished off the game for Zimbabwe in the same over with a huge six.
Earlier, Australia, led by Clarke's unbeaten 68 reached 209. The Aussie captain, despite a hamstring injury, saw to it that his team at least got to a score over 200, after Zimbabwe's spinners Utseysa and John Nyumbu stifled the Aussie batsmen.