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Zimbabwe Leaves Aussies Egg Faced

By Orin Davidson
Some are labeling it the Mother of All upsets, others claim it's the greatest day in Zimbabwe's cricket, but when all is said and done, the world's minnows came prepared for an international competition and reaped the fruits of their labor by bringing down mighty Australia Wednesday.

If their five-wicket upset does not rank among one of the biggest in limited overs competition, it must go down as such in the short life so far in the game's Twenty20 version.

Brendon Taylor

Zimbabwe batted well enough, bowled better than normal, but fielded phenomenally well to record only their second ever victory over the seemingly invincible world champions, at no better time than in the inaugural World Cup.

They conjured nothing much other than excellent fielding that was good enough to pip Australia at the line.

In Twenty20 cricket excellent catching, throwing and ball gathering on the ground are more than half of the job required. Zimbabwe coach Robin Brown said they worked extremely hard prior to arriving in South Africa and it showed in the way they left Australia red faced with their throwing and catching in particular.

When TV commentators finally caught up with captain Prosper Utseya after he had run one of the fastest victory laps ever in cricket, the young skipper was too breathless to speak much.

But he did not have to spell it out as his team's conduct on the field was crystal clear. They never panicked after the rain stoppage broke the rhythm of star performer Brendon Taylor or in the closing stages when they needed 12 runs for victory in the last two overs.

Zimbabwe eventually pulled off the 139 runs required with one ball remaining and five wickets left after never allowing the world Test and 50 overs champions to recover from a lousy start.

Elton Chigumbura had a dream start with the new ball, but even after he removed Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, no one would've imagined them restricting Australia to less than 200, much less 138.

Of course there was captain Ricky Ponting, the unofficial world's best batsman, to come as was Andrew Symonds, Mike Hussey and even Brett Lee, who at number 10 could beat ball whenever he wants to.

But Ponting failed for once, going for an airy fairy heave that was made ugly by a sluggish pitch.
And when Symonds was brilliantly stumped by Taylor, Zimbabwe suddenly appeared a better dignified team than the one Malcolm Speed is refusing to return to Test status or certain West Indies administrators and politicians thought not good enough to play against their `A' Team.

Ironically enough, this Zimbabwe squad was good enough to teach the said Windies team in Group `A' a thing or two about catching, throwing and bowling on the right side of the pitch.

Not to mention a bit of mental toughness which all seemed in short display during West Indies' pathetic out fielding that caused their defeat to South Africa in the World Cup's curtain raiser.

There was non existent nervousness when Taylor ran out Hussey with a one stump aimed direct hit, or when Mitchell Taylor went the via the same route or the outfield catches that sent Nathan Bracken and Bruce Haddin packing.

The said bravado was evident in Vusi Sabanda's early onslaught on Bret Lee and company that laid Zimbabwe's foundation for great things to come.

There was no pushing and prodding that weaker players would've been prone to commit in search of a small total.
Sabanda is a known strokemaker that was obvious to anyone seeing him at the recent 50 overs World Cup.

Though he never got a big score in Jamaica, he displayed enough flair then, and in the shortest form of the game his breezy 15-ball 23 could be just what the doctor ordered.

It was priceless to Zimbabwe's cause and inspired the following batsmen, that Lee's pace held no terrors, nor did Bracken's swing.

"When I realized there was no swing in the pitch I decided to play my natural game," Sibanda said afterwards.

Taylor must have heard him as he handled everything Ponting threw at him with the aplomb of any of the current world class openers.

His unbeaten 45-ball 60 was the ideal foil for Sabanda's flash and dash. Hamilton Mazakadza was once the world's youngest Test centurion and it was no surprise he stood around long enough to deny Australia more than the five wickets they claimed, compared to the nine they conceded.

While Zimbabwe's shocking win was being hailed by the English TV commentators, it had to be raising fears in the team's camp. They are the other team in Group B and will have to get past two formidable foes for a place in the Super Eight stage, instead of one as was thought of before Wednesday.

What England has never done in any of the major one-day competitions, Zimbabwe just accomplished.

Therefore the thought of another first round exit, must be a frightening prospect for rookie England captain Paul Collingwood and his band of the walking wounded.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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