Clarke and Gilchrist make light work of Zimbabwe
Australia 199 for 2 (Clarke 105*, Gilchrist 44) beat Zimbabwe 196 (Chigumbura 77, Gillespie 5-32) by eight wickets and won the series 3-0
Five wickets from Jason Gillespie and an unbeaten hundred by Michael Clarke helped Australia to a comfortable eight-wicket win against Zimbabwe in the third one-dayer at Harare. In an outstanding performance, they romped home with over 19 overs to spare, and thus completed a clean sweep of the three-match series.
Apart from a gutsy hundred stand between Elton Chigumbura and Mluleki Nkala, which helped Zimbabwe recover from 61 for 6 to a more respectable 196, everything went to plan for Australia. Ricky Ponting won the toss for the first time in the series and put Zimbabwe in on a good pitch, and Gillespie made a rollicking start. He bowled the first over in place of Glenn McGrath, who only came on as first change, and took the wicket of Brendan Taylor with his sixth delivery, moving the ball in to trap him lbw (4 for 1).
Gillespie moved the ball sharply with a touch of lift, and all the batsmen found him a handful. Stuart Matsikenyeri, on 4 at the time, was dropped at second slip by Ponting, but Matsikenyeri did not make the most of his luck. He skyed the very next ball over the slips and straight down the throat of Shane Watson at third man (9 for 2).
Gillespie gave Tatenda Taibu a torrid time, beating the bat time and again, before Taibu finally scampered a single to reach the other end. However, this exposed Vusi Sibanda, who then slashed half-heartedly at a lifting ball and edged through to Adam Gilchrist for 2 (10 for 3). A promising partnership developed between Taibu and Mark Vermeulen, but Vermeulen then tapped a simple return catch to Gillespie for 17 (42 for 4). Worse was to follow, as Gillespie fired in a yorker to Alester Maregwede and uprooted his leg stump (50 for 5).
Taibu had by now fought his way out of his shaky period and was batting with superb judgment, wasting no chance to score off the rare loose balls and keeping the score moving along steadily. Ponting allowed both his new-ball bowlers to complete their quotas, and Kasprowicz, who played an invaluable supporting role, finally got his reward with his very last delivery, moving it in to beat Taibu and trap him lbw for 27. Zimbabwe were then 61 for 6, and appeared as good as finished.
But then came the superb partnership between Chigumbura and Nkala that transformed a match that looked set to finish at lunchtime. Chigumbura, the promising Under-19 player who had struggled so far at international level, took a while to find the middle of the bat, but hit some handsome drives to reach his maiden half-century at this level.
Nkala just missed his fifty, bowled by Brad Hogg's faster ball for 47 (175 for 7), and then Chigumbura, in the penultimate over, swung across the line to be bowled by Hogg for 77 (195 for 5). The last three wickets fell for only two runs, and Zimbabwe were dismissed with an over to spare, Hogg taking 3 for 37. But at least they had made something of a match of it.
Zimbabwe were handicapped by the absence of both their regular new-ball bowlers, Douglas Hondo and Tinashe Panyangara, through injury. Clarke and Gilchrist took two overs to assess the bowling of Mluleki Nkala and Waddington Mwayenga before opening loose with a flurry of boundaries. Clarke began with two handsome fours through extra cover, and after conceding 39 runs in the first six overs, the opening bowlers gave way to Tawanda Mupariwa and the debutant Ed Rainsford.
Gilchrist immediately took to Mupariwa, driving him for three successive boundaries before he dragged the fourth ball on to his middle stump from outside off. He made 44, including seven fours and a six, off only 27 balls, and Australia had raced to 68 for 1 in the ninth over.
As usual when Gilchrist departs, a degree of anticlimax followed, with Clarke and Andrew Symonds scoring briskly, but not spectacularly. Symonds can at times rival Gilchrist, but not today. He had scored 20 off 22 balls when he drove Mupariwa uppishly to Mwayenga at mid-on (115 for 2).
Clarke was determined to make good use of his opportunity at the top of the order, and he batted impressively to reach his half-century from 68 balls, playing some memorable strokes, especially on the off side. It was a race to reach his century before Australia won the match. A six and two fours in succession off Chigumbura took him to 99, and next ball he scored the single needed to reach his ton before Australia completed victory in the next over. Watson, with 17 not out, was the sleeping partner in the winning stand of 84.