September 8, 2014

When Zimbabwe made heads turn

In the wake of that recent shock victory over Australia in Harare, a look at some of Zimbabwe's other international highlights

Zimbabwe sprang a surprise in their first ever international game… 31 years ago © Getty Images

Australia 1983
The only other time Zimbabwe beat Australia in a one-day international was in their first meeting; in fact, Zimbabwe's first official ODI, 31 years ago, at Trent Bridge during the 1983 World Cup. Zimbabwe's hero was their captain, Duncan Fletcher, who top-scored with 69 not out then took 4 for 42 as Australia fell embarrassingly short of their target of 240. Between Zimbabwe's two victories the two countries contested 28 more matches - Australia won 27, with one no-result.

England 1992
Zimbabwe's next victory in an official one-day international took them nearly nine years, but it was sweet when it arrived: high-flying England came a cropper in up-country Albury during the 1992 World Cup in Australia. England had lost only one of their seven qualifying matches before falling again at the last, collapsing for 125 after restricting Zimbabwe to just 134. Graeme Hick, an unused junior member of Zimbabwe's 1983 World Cup squad, was now playing for England: he was bowled by his old mate Eddo Brandes for a duck.

Pakistan 1994-95
Zimbabwe's first Test win came at only their 11th attempt, and it was a crushing win too: Pakistan were walloped by an innings and 64 runs in Harare in 1994-95. Zimbabwe's imposing total of 544 owed a lot to the family Flower: Grant made 201 not out in nearly 11 hours, and Andy 156.

India 1998-99
Zimbabwe's second Test victory came in a one-off match against India in Harare in 1998-99. In a low-scoring match, India needed only 235 to win - but the openers fell for ducks and they were soon doomed at 133 for 9. Zimbabwe beat India again in Harare in June 2001.

Pakistan 2013
When Zimbabwe returned to Test cricket late, in 2011, they predictably struggled - although a first-up defeat of Bangladesh in Harare was a morale-boosting start. But some heavy defeats followed, and more of the same was expected when Pakistan toured in 2013. Misbah-ul-Haq's side did indeed win the first Test by 221 runs, but Zimbabwe had done well to start with... and they did even better in the second Test, in Harare, taking a first-innings lead of 64. They struggled to build on that, and set Pakistan only 264 to win, but they lost regular wickets, and a shambolic run-out eventually left Brendan Taylor and his team ecstatic. It remains the most recent of Zimbabwe's 11 wins (six of them against Bangladesh) in 94 Tests now.

England 1996-97
England's first full tour of Zimbabwe, in 1996-97, was a bit of a disaster for the visitors, who were probably expecting something of an easy ride. The first Test in Bulawayo was famously drawn with the scores level, when Nick Knight was run out going for the winning run from the last ball of the match, then England were shot out for 156 in the second Test, a rain-affected draw. If that wasn't bad enough, Zimbabwe swept all three one-day internationals, in which England's highest total was just 179: in the third one, in Harare, they were soon in trouble at 13 for 3 after Eddo Brandes took a hat-trick.

West Indies 2000
In a triangular one-day series in England in 2000, Zimbabwe played West Indies three times... and beat them three times - by six wickets in Bristol, 70 runs in Canterbury, and at Chester-le-Street. It got them into the tournament final at Lord's, where England proved a different proposition.

New Zealand 2011
When Zimbabwe returned to the Test fold in 2011, one of their three visitors was New Zealand. After the tourists won the first two one-day games, Zimbabwe hit back with a nail-biting one-wicket victory in the third, in Bulawayo. That set up a tense see-saw encounter in the only Test, also in Bulawayo, where Zimbabwe fell just 34 runs short after being set 366 to win.

ICC Trophy 1982
Zimbabwe booked their seat at the high table - the 1983 World Cup - with victory in the ICC Trophy qualifying competition in England the previous year. After cantering unbeaten through the preliminaries, in the final in Leicester they overcame an early batting wobble to beat Bermuda by five wickets.

Australia 2007
Zimbabwe had won their first one-day international, in 1983, by beating Australia (see above). And they won their first T20, in the inaugural World T20, by beating Australia again. A fine innings from Brendan Taylor spirited them to victory in Cape Town with a ball to spare. "An upset of Krakatoan proportions," enthused Wisden, "the undisputed masters of world cricket downed by supposed tournament makeweights."

World Cup 1999
Arguably the best all-round side Zimbabwe has ever had was assembled for the 1999 World Cup. The Flower brothers and Heath Streak were joined by a combative allrounder in Neil Johnson, and the pugnacious batsman Murray Goodwin - although it was fast bowler Henry Olonga, with three late wickets, who sealed a tense three-run victory over India in Leicester. Johnson and Streak then reduced South Africa to 40 for 6 in Chelmsford, where Zimbabwe's eventual win - their first in any international against South Africa, and they've only won one more since - meant they progressed to the second phase at England's expense. They bowed out there, although Johnson gave Australia something to think about with a superb 132 not out at Lord's.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2014. Ask Steven is now on Facebook