ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
Australia v Zimbabwe, Group A, World Cup 2011, Ahmedabad
Zimbabwe pin hopes on spin
February 20, 2011
Zimbabwe's coach, Alan Butcher, thinks it's unlikely his team will beat the defending champions on Monday. The captain of Australia, Ricky Ponting, is not expecting a surprise loss. The bookmakers have Australia as almost unbackable favourites. But somewhere in the back of the minds of this Zimbabwe group is a sliver of hope, the knowledge that upsets can happen.
And that if their three spinners can make use of an Ahmedabad pitch that could provide assistance, it might be just enough to bring Australia back down to a more even footing. Of course, everything must go right for Zimbabwe, who have not beaten Australia in an ODI since their shock win at the 1983 World Cup. Everything would also need to go wrong for Australia, who have not lost a World Cup match since 1999, back in the era of Steve Waugh and Alistair Campbell.
"The longer a winning run goes, the closer it must be to coming to an end," Butcher said on Sunday. "It may not be us that ends it but someone has got to. All we've done is tried to prepare as well as we can, on the basis that if we play as well as we can in six matches during this World Cup, we can't do any more than that. If on the way one or two of the big sides have a bad day and slip up, hopefully we will take advantage of that.
"If we play confidently, play our best cricket and Australia don't, then we may have a chance. Let's be honest, if both sides play their best cricket, it's very likely that we'll lose."
Butcher is nothing if not a realist. But the Zimbabweans have kept an eye on Australia's performance during the warm-up matches, when they struggled against top-quality spin. Ray Price, Prosper Utseya and Graeme Cremer are not quite the same as Harbhajan Singh, but spin is the strength of Zimbabwe and Australia will need to force the pace for much of their innings.
It's nearly seven years since the teams have met in a one-day international, although the Australians will remember with frustration being upset by Zimbabwe at the 2007 World Twenty20. In the past year, Zimbabwe have had ODI wins against India, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Bangladesh, so they know how to beat good teams, but Ponting is confident his side will have their measure.
"We had a good team meeting last night and talked about all their players, individually, and went through batters and bowlers," Ponting said. "They've got a lot of spin options, even a couple of part-time spinners and a quality left-arm offspinner and a legspinner as well, that I wouldn't be surprised if they play.
"We've had a good look at them. We know what their strengths and weaknesses are. We've also seen their record, and their record is not that strong either, and that's against some of the smaller nations. We'd expect to play well tomorrow and hopefully get the tournament off on the right note."
And after powerful performances from India, New Zealand and Sri Lanka against weaker sides in the opening matches of the tournament, it seems likely Australia will continue the trend. Zimbabwe's most ardent fans might say that it means a surprise is due.
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