ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News

Australia v Zimbabwe, World Cup 2011, Ahmedabad

Butcher admits to problems against pace

Brydon Coverdale at Motera

February 21, 2011

Comments: 21 | Text size: A | A

For half the match, it almost looked like Zimbabwe would challenge Australia. Their spinners bowled well, their fielding was excellent and they kept the world champions to a gettable 262. Could it be that Zimbabwe, not a minnow but by no means a piranha, would end the 23-match World Cup winning streak of the biggest fish in the cricketing pond? Well, no, because Shaun Tait, Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee were still to play their part.

But what Zimbabwe showed was that they can compete with the strongest sides, and toppling a higher-ranked team or two is not out of the question over the next few weeks. On the sluggish pitches they will encounter, the spin of Ray Price, Prosper Utseya and Graeme Cremer will be key, but to really threaten, they must find runs from their top order.

Brendan Taylor, Charles Coventry and Tatenda Taibu have the talent to give their side good starts, but the speed of Australia's bowlers was simply too much. Coventry slapped Lee over point for six but was jumpy in playing the shorter balls, and was caught when he top-edged an attempted pull, and Taylor was beaten by the sheer pace of an accurate Tait delivery.

"I was really pleased with the way we bowled and fielded," Zimbabwe's coach Alan Butcher said after the 91-run loss. "We had a disaster against Ireland in the field [in the warm-up game] and we've worked very hard to put that right, because that's one of our strengths and we have to be good at that. I would say that I'm qualified in my praise for the team because, yes, most of it was okay, but we obviously need to bat better.

"We didn't really play [the fast bowlers] as well as we might have done. We don't see too much of that sort of pace in Zimbabwe, so it's something we're going to have to get used to if we're going to compete at the top level of international cricket."

Zimbabwe's next game is far from a top-of-the-table clash, against Canada in Nagpur next Monday, and they will fancy their chances of securing their opening win of the tournament. Led by Price, who is a tricky customer with the new ball, their spinners kept Australia on the leash at Motera, and they were backed up in the field, highlighted by a frighteningly accurate throw from Chris Mpofu in the deep that caught Ricky Ponting short.

"It's a big positive for the team, I thought our bowling and fielding was superb today," Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura said. "It's something that we have to carry on in the rest of the tournament. Now we just have to work on our batting. We just have to make sure that we keep wickets in hand in the early period. After ten overs, that's when we lost two or three quick wickets. From there, playing a bigger team it's always hard to come back."

But to their credit, Zimbabwe didn't fold after crashing to 44 for 4, and some lower-order runs helped them climb to 171. It was another positive in a match that should give Zimbabwean fans hope of a heartening World Cup campaign.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 21 
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Posted by Andrew on (February 24, 2011, 6:28 GMT)

@5wombats - did you "predict" the Netherlands running your mob close to the wire??? Oz batting looked alot better then Pommie bowlers who almost conceeded 300 runs to an Associate nation. Anderson figures 10-0-72-0! LOL! @John Muvati - re: seamers, you do have some good seamers but they're injured (Jarvis & Rainsford). I think they'd have been better than Mopfu. @ xylo - loved your top 4! @ king_kenie - true, Zim have a history of being an athletic fielding side. Its something that other nations particularly India, Pakistan & Bangladesh need to have a look at, (Oz too!). @ Vatto - I thought this IS CRICINFO? AND he is using what is more likely his name which is more than what I can say for 99% of cricinfo members (myself included)! More courage than you (superficially anyway)!

Posted by milward on (February 22, 2011, 8:23 GMT)

Positive cricket from our spinners and fielding. we need to improve on our batting. thanks guyz for a fair show against the defending champions. keep on working hard you will get some good results soon

Posted by Kell on (February 22, 2011, 7:20 GMT)

@Ward. Given the flogging you mentioned I think Aus might safely account for the Poms as well. Aus still ranked No1 in ODI's must count for something.

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 22, 2011, 7:15 GMT)

Zim cricket is definitely on the up. 3 things they need to work on...1. More seam/pace bowling options 2. Better batting performances from the top order 3. Mental strength against any opposition (the zim batsmen looked a bit overawed by the occassion)....as for Australia, though it might be too early to say, I dare say - the glory days are definitely coming to an end

Posted by Vikram on (February 22, 2011, 6:38 GMT)

@Chris Ward: England just got thrashed 6-1, and you believe that Australia cannot beat anyone else? I am looking forward to the day that this claim of yours comes back to haunt you big time. :-)

My guess is that Australia took the foot off the pedal after having Zim at 44/4 (though that is unusual of Australia), and started treating this more like a warm-up game and try different bowling variations. So, not much to read into this "oh australia cannot come to terms with the slow pitches, the throne awaits for India" argument. Especially when India's bowlers were run ragged by B'desh. Without Zaheer, India's bowling is zilch. Without Kallis, the Chokers are toast. England, meh. The true contenders are those who can afford an injury or two to their best players. And, on that basis, Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have a very good chance. And if the kiwis take flight, they can lay claim to the fourth place.

Posted by Ritchie on (February 22, 2011, 6:35 GMT)

Zimbabwe has exposed Australia's weakness again. If they had survived against Bret lee and Tait a little longer it could be a close match , but Australia is still the best team out thr, this minor slip ups are just the preparations they need to bit bigger teams..

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 22, 2011, 6:30 GMT)

Well done Zimbabwe. I Think they fielded and bowled very well. Other better nations could take note.

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 22, 2011, 6:27 GMT)

I think we should reverse out batting order and put the tailenders at the top and see what happens. Fair and fine, the pace was a factor but they were not doing too badly. Not bad though, recovery was respectable, considering what could have been!

Posted by vathsalya on (February 22, 2011, 5:48 GMT)

to the below gentlemen who doesnt have the courage to come to cricinfo to comment.

"Don't worry Zim, even most of the Indian batters have the same problem against pace! Even India scored just over 200 in the practice match against the Oz "

India might have scored 200, but they were 120/8... But you only said half of the story.... How about Aussies son... 176. So keep shut and watch the games.

Posted by ken on (February 22, 2011, 5:05 GMT)

I saw the Zimbawbe in the West Indies. They can bowl and field but anything over 230 is too much for their batting even on a good batting track... They might be a handful for the associates but are not in contension for anything special... Bangadish has a much better chance

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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