WA just miss victory after thrilling chase

Zimbabweans 330 and 146 for 6 dec (Gripper 54) drew with Western Australia 207 for 6 dec and 266 for 4 (Hussey 79, Worthington 45)

Western Australia came home with a sprint in their quest to score 270 off 38 overs to beat the Zimbabweans, but finally fell four runs short. It was a close-run thing in a thrilling test of cricket character which left the Zimbabweans hanging on by their fingernails.

It seemed that Heath Streak had set an improbable target, but that fighting quality that is so obvious in Australian international cricket also exists at first-class level. The WA top order responded to the challenge in superb style, and put the Zimbabwean attack through hell. But in the end, a tight penultimate over from Sean Ervine, which yielded only three singles, managed to shut the assault down. Andy Blignaut was left to bowl the last over with 15 runs required. While Marcus North did his best, 11 was all that could be managed.

Chris Rogers gave WA their initial impetus. He scored 26 of the first 32 runs before he was dismissed to a tidy catch low down at backward point by Mark Vermeulen off Blignaut. But once Ryan Campbell joined Mike Hussey the target was lifted into the realms of possibility. They scored at better than a run a ball in their 128-run stand, with Campbell scoring his half-century from 52 deliveries.

Smart running between the wickets kept the pressure on the Zimbabwean fielders, and the 100 partnership came up in an hour off only 79 balls. But the heat was always on the batsmen too, and when Campbell advanced to take on Trevor Gripper's offspin he was stumped for 59. At one stage Gripper was no-balled for having too many men behind square - the batsmen weren't the only ones feeling the pressure.

Gripper had his reward with Hussey's wicket after he had waltzed to 79 from as many balls. That left WA at 211 for 3, but Peter Worthington continued to take the attack to the bowlers and his 27-ball innings produced 45 runs and pulled his side back to the point where they needed 32 runs from 25 balls. But then Worthington lofted Ervine to long-off, and the draw loomed. All the Zimbabwean bowlers suffered - Streak finished with 0 for 81 from 13 overs, Blignaut 1 for 60 off nine, Ervine 1 for 57 from nine, and Gripper 2 for 57 off seven.

It was a situation created by declarations. Western Australia declared at 207 for 6 overnight, and then the Zimbabweans responded at 146 for 6, although there must have been some moments of disquiet at the manner of the dismissal of several of their top-order batsmen. Gripper proved the most consistent of them, with 54, but he was out to the last ball of the same over - the first after lunch - in which he reached his half-century. Paul Wilson, who finished with 3 for 26, grabbed three quick wickets to have the Zimbabweans struggling at 124 for 6.

There was an unusual interruption in the morning session, when a swarm of bees descended on Chris Rogers while he was fielding. He fell to the ground and was attempting to beat off the bees before his team-mates realised what was happening. When the bees followed Rogers towards the pitch, the players at the wicketkeeper's end decided to move smartly to the bowler's end, but they soon had to move even closer to the pavilion. At that point the umpires decided to call for drinks nine minutes ahead of schedule. Four minutes were lost before the swarm flew off, allowing play to resume.

It was a sign of things to come: just when it seemed the match would peter out to a tame draw, it had some sting to it.