Australia v Zimbabwe, VB Series, 9th ODI, Adelaide January 26, 2004

Flower rearguard goes in vain

The Wisden Bulletin

Australia 279 for 7 (Bevan 75, Ponting 63) beat Zimbabwe 266 for 8 (Flower 94) by 13 runs

Michael Bevan: stroked his way to a fine 75 as Australia posted an easy win at Adelaide © Getty Images

In the end, Australia's 279 for 7 proved too strong for a battling Zimbabwean team, who were led by Grant Flower's valiant 94. But Ricky Ponting had expected a different story when he opted to bat first. Although Ponting and Michael Bevan both scored half-centuries, the Australians' propensity to dominate got the better of them. Had it not been for an unnaturally obsessive tendency to pulverise their opponents, they might have ended up with a larger total.

Damien Martyn, promoted to open, spent four and a half overs miscuing his shots, as he realised the wicket wasn't exactly a shirt-front. He eventually found a semblance of his elusive form in an aesthetically perfect cut shot. But he failed to keep it down, and Dion Ebrahim at point made an easy catch look amazing (25 for 1). Ponting came out and wrote a how-to of square-drives, lofted cover-drives, and on-drives. Taking the pitch out of the equation by adjusting the timing of his swing, he made fielders redundant. Zimbabwe's bowlers, not exactly life-threatening, found him sashaying down the wicket and tonking the ball wherever he felt like. He soon reached his fifty off 47 balls. Meanwhile, Matthew Hayden goaded the Zimbabwe bowlers on with ill-advised strokes, until luck ran out on him, and he cut a delivery straight to Ebrahim at point (84 for 2).

A while later, Ponting (63) walked back after a misunderstanding with Bevan left him short of his crease (128 for 3). Out came Michael Clarke, who kept the runs coming with graceful strokes placed between the fielders. While Clarke was in control, Bevan didn't play convincingly, and still managed 75. Both ran with whippet-like urgency, infuriating the Zimbabwe fielders with quick singles, and cut, nudged, and pushed, to keep the score on the move. In the rush for runs, both batsmen eventually fell; Clarke (36), to a needless run-out, and Bevan, when he miscued Douglas Hondo. Andrew Symonds squeezed 34 runs from 30 balls, but was dismissed in the last over. Everyone else scampered for quick runs, and Australia got to 279.

Tatenda Taibu and Grant Flower opened for Zimbabwe, and had problems getting the ball off the square. They took their time to get going, but once they did, they scored at two-and-a-half an over. While Taibu was struggling to touch the ball with his bat, the seagulls on the outfield became the main topic of discussion. Then, Brad Williams, bowling menacingly, cheered up the spectators by bowling Taibu for 9 in the 10th over.

Travis Friend and Stuart Carlisle played, missed, and were thoroughly unconvincing in their brief stay while Brett Lee and Williams were bowling, and fell without doing much (90 for 3). But Flower was in a league of his own. After crawling to 29, he initiated a burst of activity that resulted in several boundaries, scowling bowlers, and a quick fifty. Williams was cover-driven with power, and though edges were induced, they travelled for four.

With Sean Ervine for company, he gradually mounted a challenge. Ervine scampered most of his 33 runs, except for a huge blow over midwicket, and Flower stayed put, cutting out the risks. But when Ervine attempted another six, he found Lee on the boundary's edge (159 for 4). The next over, Flower nicked Gillespie to the keeper, pretty much ending the fightback. Streak and Andy Blignaut then scored 59 runs in 54 balls between them, and got Zimbabwe close, but in truth, the contest had been over for a while.