Williams bowls Australia to comprehensive win

Australia 225 for 8 (Symonds 42, Clarke 40) beat Zimbabwe 126 (Streak 46, Williams 5-22) by 99 runs

Brad Williams confirmed his place among the fastest and the best in Australia's bowling line-up with a fierce spell that blew away Zimbabwe's top order and ensured that even Australia's modest total of 225 was enough to secure victory by 99 runs. The Sunday crowd at the SCG rose and cheered as Zimbabwe were dismissed for 126, despite some doughty resistance from Heath Streak and Tatenda Taibu.

Williams (5 for 22) was irresistible for the manner in which he combined pace with accuracy. Not for him the exaggerated swing or seam movement that left the wicketkeeper diving to gather. Not for him the swift bouncer followed by the stinging yorker. He simply put the ball on a good length and rarely wandered from an off-stump line. The white ball then did its job admirably under lights, swinging and seaming just enough to beat the center of the bat.

The first Zimbabwean in the firing line was Stuart Carlisle. He could barely get his eye in before guiding a snorter from Williams into the waiting hands of Matthew Hayden at slip (2 for 1). Williams then sent Grant Flower, the danger man, back when a ball that pitched on off and jagged back in to trap him plumb in front (13 for 3). Stuart Matsikenyeri and Mark Vermeulen were then painfully embarrassed by a bowler who had his tail up. Matsikenyeri edged to Gilchrist and Vermeulen drove down the wrong line and lost his stumps (17 for 5).

Somewhere in the middle of the Williams mayhem Jason Gillespie had snaffled a wicket. He had Vusi Sibanda (7) caught at deep backward square leg. Here, too, Williams was in the thick of things, taking the catch near the ropes, tumbling backwards.

From 17 for 5, few teams have ever recovered, and certainly not against an opposition like Australia. Yet, Taibu and Streak showed the batsmen who went before them in poor light. Taibu walked out to the wicket with determination written on his face, and showed that even the best bowling could be blunted if one had a large heart and a broad bat. He recognised the need of the hour and refused to be drawn into playing at anything that could just as easily be left alone.

Streak, a veteran among novices in this team, batted as he had earlier bowled, with maximum effort, drawing on a well of experience. He presented a straight bat to everything hurled at him, and only drove at the ball after it had lost its shine and stopped swinging.

Streak and Taibu added 73 for the sixth wicket, the best stand of the match, but Zimbabwe would still fall short. Taibu (29) cut hard at Andy Symonds and edged to the keeper (90 for 6). Soon after, Streak was stumped off Michael Clarke just four runs short of a well-deserved fifty (122 for 8). The batsmen who followed did not quite possess the same powers of concentration, and Zimbabwe slid to 126 all out.

The wicket at the SCG will come under some debate in the days to come. After all, it's not every day that Australia are restricted to 225 in 50 overs. When some introspection is done, though, it will emerge that it was a lack of application, and some honest-to-goodness bowling, that was the primary cause for this low-scoring encounter.

Streak set the tone with a disciplined first spell where he kept Hayden quiet. Streak's wicket-to-wicket line and a length just short enough to keep the drive at bay, frustrated Hayden till he could manage only 14 from 36 balls. Eventually Hayden dragged a Streak delivery back onto his stumps (42 for 1).

From then on a series of batsmen got in and out, never quite spending enough time out in the middle to build a substantial partnership. Stands of 31, 4, 25 and 6 meant that Australia were slipping towards ruin when Symonds (42) and Michael Clarke (40) put their heads down and stemmed the rot. On the back of their 66-run partnership Australia limped to 225 for 8 from 50 overs. In the end, that proved to be enough.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.