Australia in trial mode as Clarke returns
Zimbabwe and Australia kick off the second round of league matches in the Triangular Series when the two teams clash at Harare Sports Club today.
Approaches and mind-sets of both teams are likely to be at opposite ends of the confidence spectrum. While Zimbabwe are yet to win a match, Australia have had one clinical victory against the hosts before they were out-batted by South Africa in a high-scoring game.
For Zimbabwe, the tournament is now about ensuring they don’t end up as a team simply making up the numbers for the opposition.
Few teams can restrict the current South African batting line-up to 231 as Zimbabwe did on Friday but the end result, instead of embellishing Utseya’s remarkable hat-trick, only drew attention to Zimbabwe’s batting failures.
In their last five ODIs, Zimbabwe have crossed 200 only once and scores of 152 and 170 in this series have shown that despite the odd knock from Hamilton Masakadza or Sean Williams, Zimbabwe’s batsmen have been prone to wasting their starts when they get one and have struggled to bat around one individual in the team.
A spot in the final is not impossible — a bonus-point win over Australia on today could make the race for one of the two final places interesting.
The series is also about the smaller milestones for the hosts — an upset win, a cohesive batting display against a top opposition — that can do wonders for their confidence before an overseas tour and the run-up to the World Cup.
Zimbabwe might contemplate bringing in Vusi Sibanda following the failures of Tino Mawoyo at the top of the order. Sibanda has not played a game since the first ODI of the bilateral series against South Africa earlier this month.
Australia will be boosted by the return of Michael Clarke, after he was side-lined by a hamstring injury at a practice session before the start of the series.
The game against Zimbabwe will be a good chance for him to ease back into international cricket after a gap of nearly six months.
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