Forgotten Classics January 22, 2015

Zimbabwe's Trent Bridge coup

Interviews by Tristan Holme
In 1983, the minnows stunned the cricketing world in their first international match by upsetting a disunited Australia

Houghton: "Fletcher's ability to change a game when it needed changing was superb" © Patrick Eagar

In their very first one-day international, Zimbabwe announced their arrival with one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history, beating Australia by 13 runs at Trent Bridge. Such an outrageous result did not look on the cards when Zimbabwe slumped to 94 for 5 at lunch, or even after Duncan Fletcher's 69 had carried them to a total of 239 for 6 in 60 overs. But Fletcher took 4 for 42, and the Zimbabweans bowled with discipline and fielded like demons to catch their more illustrious opponents napping and force the cricket world to sit up and take notice.

Kepler Wessels: I knew quite a bit about them [Zimbabwe] because I played against them in the Currie Cup, but the other guys knew nothing about them. I guess it's fair to say that we underestimated them a little bit and didn't think they would be much of an obstacle.

Geoff Lawson: Our biggest problem was that we had absolutely no preparation. We were coming out of the Australian winter and there was no such thing as a camp. We had a three-day practice game against New Zealand that was hailed out, so we were totally underdone. I was writing my exams. I'd take a ball down to the local nets and bowl for half an hour in the dark and the cold. That was my preparation for a World Cup. So I wouldn't say we were at our peak.

Australia were not also exactly united as a team either - which the Zimbabweans picked up on.

Wessels: It was a turbulent time in Australian cricket and I guess that performance summed things up. There was a lot of stuff going on.

Vince Hogg: Things like Dennis Lillee coming to the ground in separate transport. It struck us that Kim Hughes didn't have the whole side behind him. After the game two of them came to our changing rooms - Kepler and one other. We all sensed that they weren't united behind Hughes, and certainly Lillee and Hughes had huge issues. Huge. Lillee was bigger than the team, which was wrong. No player is bigger than the team.

Nevertheless, Zimbabwe faced a stiff task after they had lost the toss and been sent in to bat by Hughes.

Dave Houghton: We knew a fair amount about their players, but for us they were legends. The thought of going to Trent Bridge and playing against Australia… I can still remember Grant Paterson and Ali Shah opening the batting and going out to face Lillee and [Jeff] Thomson. You should have seen the pair of them in the changing room before they left. They were absolutely pooping themselves.

Although Paterson and Shah put on 55 for the first wicket, Lillee dismissed them both. Then Graham Yallop took two wickets in two balls.

"I remember going to the bar in the hotel, introducing myself to Rodney Marsh and sitting down and talking to him for a long time. Lillee came in at some stage, and it was through those conversations that we realised the problems within the Australian camp"
Dave Houghton

Andy Pycroft: I was on a hat-trick ball twice in that game. When I came in to bat, Paterson and Shah had got 50 but got out to consecutive deliveries. Then Jack Heron and Houghton got out to consecutive balls and I faced the first ball of the next over.

When Pycroft was bowled by Allan Border off the last ball before lunch, Zimbabwe were 94 for 5. After the interval they were revived by a captain's innings from Fletcher.

Houghton: His ability to change a game when it needed changing was superb. He'd stand next to me at slip, and if a partnership of 60 or 70 developed, he would say, "Give me the ball." He'd bowl, get the person out, give the ball back to someone else. If we were in trouble at, say, 40 for 4, he'd go in and get 90. But if we were 200 for 4, he'd get 10. He needed that needle or pressure to bring out the best in himself. But honestly, to this day I've never met a guy who understood the game better.

Wessels: I think he [Fletcher] was dropped at mid-on, but I don't remember too many details about his innings. I think he was capable, but not a dynamic sort of hitter. He was one of those guys - he used to swing the ball nicely. Not a bad allrounder, but not someone you would expect to take the game away from you.

Lawson: The wicket was actually pretty good. The thing with the 60-over game was that you had a lot more time, and he got himself in and played steadily. Nothing explosive - he just occupied the crease and picked up his runs. It was a very sensible middle-order innings.

Houghton: Fletch and Iain Butchart put on a big stand at the end. Butchy hit Jeff Thomson over the sight screen for six, which for us was just amazing.

As impressive as Zimbabwe's recovery had been, everyone expected Australia to chase 240 in 60 overs - especially after Wessels and Graeme Wood laid the platform with a 61-run opening partnership. However, the Zimbabweans bowled tidily. John Traicos was especially economical: his 12 overs went for just 27 runs.

Wessels: He was a good spinner in the old-fashioned sense, where there was no mystery to him. He just bowled regulation offspin and had quite a good arm ball. I'd played against him quite a bit as well in domestic cricket. He always did a tidy job, but he wasn't someone who was going to roll you over.

Pycroft:
Pycroft: "Our fielding and pressure bowling in defending a total was one of the best I've played in or seen. Duncan can take a lot of credit for all of that © Wisden Cricket Monthly

Houghton: John was brilliant, and one of the things that helped him was that I think six of their top seven were left-handers. It did turn a little bit, but Traicos was deadly accurate. Then of course, when they needed to pick the rate up a bit, Fletch took four for about 40.

Just as Australia were looking comfortable, Fletcher dismissed four of Australia's top five, leaving Wessels as the only one standing.

Wessels: The run rate wasn't a problem, we just kept losing wickets. They were just very intense, because it was their opportunity and they obviously sensed that they could cause an upset. They were highly motivated and up for the game. It was their moment.

Pycroft: Our fielding and pressure bowling in defending a total was one of the best I've played in or seen. Duncan can take a lot of credit for all of that.

Hogg: I think we realised after 30 overs that we were in the game. Our fielding was great, we were chasing every ball. We had good fielders, and that took the Australians by surprise. We were much better than the Australians thought we were.

Lawson: Every time we hit the ball in the air, we got caught. It was just one of those sort of games.

Houghton: I guess you could say that all along we felt that we were in it and we were competing, but it was only in the last ten overs that we actually thought we could win it.

The key wicket fell when Wessels was run out for 76 by a direct hit from Jack Heron.

Hogg: Jack was so quick to the ball. He was fielding at cover-point for the run-out - they tried to pinch a quick single, but Jack was too quick.

Houghton: Jack was an amazing athlete, and as a schoolboy he was a 40m runner, 100m runner, a great hockey player, and he had a bullet arm. Jack ran guys out regularly, because the opposition all thought he was the old guy in our team. We used to call him the grey fox.

Although Rod Marsh made a quick 50 not out, Australia ran out of overs and finished on 226 for 7.

Wessels: It didn't leave a good taste in the mouth, and it just added to the problematic air we had.

Houghton: The celebrations are sort of a blur to me. I remember going to the bar in the hotel, introducing myself to Rodney Marsh and sitting down and talking to him for a long time. Lillee came in at some stage, and it was through those conversations that we realised the problems within the Australian camp. Because they were having massive battles with Kim Hughes as captain and they had two or three camps within their team. They were brilliant after the game, though - they just said, "You played well, you deserved to win."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 22, 2015, 23:54 GMT

    Why were they disunited? Packer and WSC is the reason. When the rebel Packer players came back, Chappell took over the captaincy but did not want to tour so Hughes was given captaincy for overseas tours. Marsh wanted the captaincy, and that is what disunited the team. The Packer players, especially Lillee believed Marsh should have been captain over Hughes.

  • Edwin on January 22, 2015, 8:51 GMT

    Er, they were disunited. The following year Lillee, Marsh and Chappell all resigned internationally, whilst Hughes gave up the captaincy in tears.

  • Bang on January 22, 2015, 4:50 GMT

    When the big masters are defeated, its always covered by excuses. Here, Australia was disunited! As if we didn't watch that match. Its sad

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