Australia v Zimbabwe, 1st Test, Perth, day 1 October 9, 2003

A chastening start

Much as most people expected, Zimbabwe were under the whip on the first day of their inaugural Test match in Australia at Perth. They did not lose their honour, though, although they particularly struggled in the final hour when the Australian batting ran away with things.

The Zimbabwe team selection appeared to be primarily defensive, with an extra batsman played, and all 11 have scored centuries in first-class cricket. Perhaps most interesting was the recall of Craig Evans to Test cricket at the age of 33; he has played in two previous Tests, in 1996 and 1998, and in the past has been considered a one-day specialist. But he has scored heavily in first-class domestic cricket over the years, and the selectors, probably realising their error in sending such an inexperienced team to England, have recalled him, along with Craig Wishart and Trevor Gripper, who were also controversially omitted from that tour.

It would be interesting to know what discussion went on in the Zimbabwe camp about what should be done if they won the toss. Heath Streak surprised the critics by putting Australia in to bat. Yet he had Geoff Marsh, the team coach, and Bruce Reid, his bowling coach, to advise him - and both of them played most of their cricket on this WACA ground. Streak said he expected some early help from the conditions, but this did not materialise to any great extent. Perhaps also there was the more negative consideration of lack of faith in his own batting line-up, even though it is theoretically packed with batting. It was puzzling.

The Zimbabwe bowlers were presumably looking to swing the ball early on, as they bowled a full length in the early overs, only for the Australian openers Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer to take heavy toll. The first-change seamer Sean Ervine was the first to find a better length, and he had the luck he deserved when Langer chopped a ball on to his stumps, and then removed Ricky Ponting.

Ervine has clearly been working on improving his bowling recently; he has the potential to be a class allrounder, but has concentrated more on batting until now. He tends to be injury-prone, though, and Zimbabwe will be praying he can stay fit and maintain his form. Streak's bowling was rather disappointing, not as consistently accurate or probing as usual.

The Zimbabweans fielded well almost throughout the day, with Tatenda Taibu winning particular praise behind the stumps. Their over rate was very poor, though, and they deserve to be fined for going over time. This is one of the bad habits they have caught during their years in Test cricket and it needs to be cured.