Zimbabwe v Australia, Tri-series, Harare August 24, 2014

Different goals for mismatched sides

Match facts

Monday, August 25, 2014
Start time 0930 local (0730GMT)

Big picture

After a week of playing a fourth-ranked ODI team that has subsequently been bumped up to third, what is the last thing the bottom-ranked side (at least as far as Full Members are concerned) want to do? Play the No.1s. But Zimbabwe know that international cricket is more about what they have to do rather than what they want to, and taking on both Australia and South Africa is what they will spend the next four matches doing.

At least it will bring to 11 the number of ODIs they would have played in six weeks - a significant number to have a proper idea of where they stand as their preparations continue for next year's World Cup. The harsh reality is that Zimbabwe may not like where that is unless their fortune changes in this series.

Not only did they squander a series lead to share spoils with an Associate member - Afghanistan - but they were also thoroughly worked over by South Africa. For now, they do not show any signs of forcing their way into the final of the upcoming tri-series. They will remain hopeful that if all three of their departments click and click better than they have in recent times, they can cause upsets but will likely have to set mini targets, such as reaching scores over 250 or bowling sides out, as goals for the series.

Australia will not play any similar games within games. Michael Clarke is after a trophy - despite being ruled out of the first game with injury* - and he is unlikely to allow matters to meander in the way South Africa sometimes do. Australia have not played ODIs since their January series against England, but one can expect ruthlessness and aggression from them, even though some of it may be cleverly disguised as experimentation. From the No.1 ranked side in the world, there can be nothing less.

Form guide

Zimbabwe LLLLL (last five completed games, most recent first)
Australia WLWWW

In the spotlight

A whitewash at the hands of South Africa was not entirely unexpected but the progressive regression of the Zimbabwe players will put the focus on their coach Stephen Mangongo to see how he handles their recovery. Mangongo was one of the driving forces behind the players being swapped around against South Africa, so much so, that Zimbabwe's top-order has become unpredictable and unstable and the team lop-sided. The lower-order contributes more runs but lacks wicket-taking bite when it's needed most. How Mangongo strategises around this will be key for Zimbabwe over the next two weeks.

Mitchell Marsh has shown great potential ever since captaining Australia to the Under-19 World Cup title in 2009-10 but his opportunities in national colours have so far been limited. He will add to his tally of four ODIs during this series and with Shane Watson injured, it provides a terrific chance for Marsh to audition for a more long-term all-round role. He enters the series with some encouraging form behind him, including 211 in a first-class match against India A last month followed by 11 wickets at 20.00 in the quadrangular one-day tournament that followed.

Team news

Zimbabwe have named a 22-man squad for the series and it includes Brendan Taylor, who is expected to return to the No. 4 position after being dramatically dropped for the final ODI against South Africa last week. Sikandar Raza may return to open with Richmond Mutumbami with Hamilton Masakadza coming in at No.3. Test seamer Tinashe Panyangara made his return against South Africa after being rested following his Test workload and could be joined by Tendai Chatara which will leave Zimbabwe with a question over who to use as a lower-order allrounder. Teenager Luke Jongwe is one option, Shingi Masakadza is another. They may also bench Prosper Utseya as he awaits testing over his action and give legspinner Tafadzwa Kamungozi another chance.

Zimbabwe: (probable) 1 Sikandar Raza, 2 Richmond Mutumbami (wk), 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Brendan Taylor, 5 Sean Williams, 6 Elton Chigumbura (capt), 7 Luke Jongwe/Shingi Masakadza 8 Prosper Utseya/Tafadzwa Kamungozi, 9 John Nyumbu, 10 Tendai Chatara,11 Tinashe Panyangara

With David Warner out of the series on paternity leave and Clarke unable to overcome a hamstring problem, Phillip Hughes would have hoped for an opportunity to translate his A-team form into success on the international stage. However, he found himself named 12th man when Australia announced their team in advance*, with Darren Lehmann saying they had "opted to go with the spin option of Nathan Lyon along with the extra allrounder to add further depth to our batting". Quite how they will line up, with only one genuine opener in Aaron Finch and Mitchell Marsh coming in to an experimental middle order, remains to be seen.

Australia: 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Brad Haddin (wk), 3 George Bailey (capt), 4 Steven Smith, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 James Faulkner, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Kane Richardson, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Nathan Lyon.

Pitch and conditions

The action moves back to Harare Sports Club which has had almost two weeks rest after the Test between Zimbabwe and South Africa earlier in the month. The surfaces can be expected to be a little more lively than Bulawayo's slow and sometimes turning strips, with a bit of juice for the quicks in the morning. Hot sunshine should flatten the pitch out later in the day when runs will be plentiful. Zimbabwe has leapfrogged spring and stepped straight into summer with temperatures approaching 30 degrees.

Stats and trivia

  • Zimbabwe have only defeated Australia once in the 28 ODIs they have played against them. That was in their first match at the World Cup in June 1983 when Zimbabwe won a tense affair by 13 runs as Duncan Fletcher bowled them to a historic win.
  • The last time these two teams met each other was at the 2011 World Cup. Before that, they had not played an ODI against each other since 2004.
  • Brad Haddin made his ODI debut against Zimbabwe in 2001, before any of the current Zimbabwe squad were playing international cricket.


"It doesn't intimidate me. Coaching does not intimidate me at all. Records are meant to be broken. It's a new game, it's a new day, it's a new chapter. It's XI versus XI and you have to respect your opposition."
Speaking before the one-day series against South Africa, Zimbabwe's coach Stephen Mangongo said he was unafraid of his side taking on two of the best teams in the world

"Michael had a fitness test at training today and unfortunately hasn't come through that well enough to be available for selection in game one. He will continue intensive treatment on his hamstring and we'll monitor his progress ahead of game two on Wednesday."
Darren Lehmann hopes to have Clarke back soon

*August 24, 17.30 GMT: Story updated to reflect news of Michael Clarke's failed fitness test

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent