Zimbabwe v Australia, Tri-series, Harare August 30, 2014

Australia in trial mode as Clarke returns


Match facts

Sunday, August 31, 2014
Start time 0930 local (0730 GMT)

Big Picture

Sunday's match between Australia and Zimbabwe kicks off the second round of league matches in the triangular series but the approaches and mindsets of both teams are likely to be at opposite ends of the confidence spectrum. While Zimbabwe are yet to win a match, Australia have had one clinical victory against the hosts before they were out-batted by South Africa in a high-scoring game.

Australia will be boosted by the return of Michael Clarke, after he was sidelined by a hamstring injury at a practice session before the start of the series. The game against Zimbabwe will be a good chance for him to ease back into international cricket after a gap of nearly six months.

South Africa's thumping seven-wicket win last week, where they chased 328, and Prosper Utseya's five-for on Friday would have underlined the fact that Australia have not used their spin resources properly in the triangular series so far. Nathan Lyon was dropped for the game against South Africa, where Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers toyed with the bowling that had part-time spin options in Glenn Maxwell and Steven Smith. Australia are keen to set that aspect right before a game against South Africa later next week and, possibly, the final. They have opted to rest Mitchell Johnson and give Lyon a chance.

For Zimbabwe, the tournament is now about ensuring they don't end up as a team simply making up the numbers for the opposition. Few teams can restrict the current South African batting line-up to 231 but the end result, instead of embellishing Utseya's remarkable hat-trick, only drew attention to Zimbabwe's batting failures. In their last five ODIs, Zimbabwe have crossed 200 only once and scores of 152 and 170 in this series have shown that despite the odd knock from Hamilton Masakadza or Sean Williams, Zimbabwe's batsmen have been prone to wasting their starts when they get one and have struggled to bat around one individual in the team. A spot in the final is not impossible - a bonus-point win over Australia on Sunday could make the race for one of the two final places interesting. For Zimbabwe, the series also about the smaller milestones - an upset win, a cohesive batting display against a top opposition - that can do wonders for their confidence before an overseas tour and the run-up to the World Cup.

In the spotlight

Sikandar Raza has had scores of 33 and 35 in two games so far. The big knock, however, has been absent due to poor shots that have led to soft dismissals, a luxury the Zimbabwe batting line-up cannot afford at the moment.

On the eve of the game, Michael Clarke stated that Mitchell Marsh could open the bowling for Australia against Zimbabwe. It's one of the roles that Rod Marsh, Cricket Australia's chairman of selectors, had outlined for the allrounder, who can bowl fast. His batting has also been gaining plaudits. Marsh started the series with a brisk 89 against Zimbabwe - his maiden ODI fifty - after being moved up to No. 3. Marsh could move down to No. 6 against Zimbabwe, following Clarke's return.

Team news

Apart from Michael Clarke and Nathan Lyon, Australia have also brought in Ben Cutting in place of Kane Richardson.

Australia 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Phil Hughes, 3 Michael Clarke (capt), 4 George Bailey, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Ben Cutting, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Nathan Lyon

Zimbabwe might contemplate bringing in Vusi Sibanda following the failures of Tino Mawoyo at the top of the order. Sibanda has not played a game since the first ODI of the bilateral series against South Africa earlier this month.

Zimbabwe (probable) 1 Tino Mawoyo/Vusi Sibanda, 2 Sikandar Raza, 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Brendan Taylor (wk), 5 Sean Williams, 6 Malcolm Waller, 7 Elton Chigumbura (capt), 8, Prosper Utseya, 9 John Nyumbu, 10 Tendai Chatara, 11 Brian Vitori

Pitch and conditions

With the Harare Sports Club hosting all games of the triangular series, there could be an effect on the pitches and they may get a little slower. According to Clarke, the game could be played on a used track, which can make spin a key factor.

Stats and trivia

  • In seven games this year, Aaron Finch has already hit three hundreds in an aggregate of 427 runs. Hashim Amla, who has also played seven ODIs, and Kumar Sangakkara have also scored three ODI hundreds each so far this year, although Sangakkara has played 18 games
  • In 23 games between 2013 and 2014, Zimbabwe have been bowled out for a score of less than 200 on 10 occasions


"He hasn't had much of an opportunity in this series batting at six and seven, but he was picked in the [tournament's] first squad as well so he'll obviously be very disappointed."
Michael Clarke on Steven Smith's exclusion

Rachna Shetty is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • riwaj on August 31, 2014, 7:28 GMT

    steve smith needs to play in australia's odi squad for every game no matter what. he is better than michael clarke. has many gears. he can consolidate or smash it like maxwell. plays spin very well. smith needed to play today instead of mitchell marsh. i think come world cup time michael clarke needs to quit odis. he doesnt belong in this team.

  • Dummy4 on August 31, 2014, 7:06 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx, for me it's not about favourites, Finch, for instance was never a favourite of mine, but he's convinced me now. I just truly think that Smith could be amongst our very best given the chance. Lots of people are talking about him as a failure at ODI cricket but he's never had the chance to bat up the order. He has clearly developed into a very proper batsman, far better quality than the likes of a Bailey or Maxwell, who admittedly probably hit better than he does, and that's why I'd like to see him up at 3 and play a Kohli type role. I guess we'll see what happens after the WC, hard to see him not getting a chance once Clarke and Watson step aside.

    @PFEL, I just think we are at full strength when we are picking our best side available. There seems to me to be little point in talking about the likes of Harris or Watson when they are so rarely at 100% fitness. I agree on McKay but if coach and selectors think differently then we can't really do much about it!

  • James on August 31, 2014, 7:04 GMT

    @Bren19: He might not have much, but he certainly has enough for the world cup. Smith's time will come, but not yet.

    @Rowan Tyson: Have you not seen Clarke play spinners?

  • Dummy4 on August 31, 2014, 6:35 GMT

    Welcome back Clarke and make some cheerful moments that lagged during your absence

  • Dummy4 on August 31, 2014, 6:14 GMT

    @xtram what about a lofted 6? or any 6 for that matter?

  • Bren on August 31, 2014, 6:07 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx - I agree in principle with what you say - indeed I think Smith is more suited to the test side. Whilst the numbers back up what you say, I just wonder if Clarke has much of an ODI life left in him. with his dodgy back, he might be thinking of extending his test career by playing less ODI. Same with Watson - the selectors might have got to a point where it is safe to assume that Watson is injured than fit.

  • James on August 31, 2014, 5:40 GMT

    Onlinegamer55, Smith most certainly hasn't been given ample opportunities. When was the last time he was given a decent run in the ODI team? It's been several years, and since then he's matured heaps. Judging him on the basis of a few games in his early 20s is unfair.

  • James on August 31, 2014, 5:15 GMT

    Sarangsk: Yeah right, Clarke has scored 1552 runs at an average of 46.12 since the 2011 world cup. Where are people getting the Idea that he hasn't performed in ODI's. Even so, why pick a 20 averager above him, who may or may not perform as well as Clarke?

    Personally i don't think there is anything that Smith can do that Clarke can't.

  • Sarang on August 31, 2014, 4:39 GMT

    Once Watson and Warner are back, I don't see how Clarke can find a place in this lineup for the World Cup. Finch, Warner, Watson, Bailey, Maxwell, Smith, Faulkner, Lyon, Johnson, Starc/CoulterNile, Harris/Pattinson should be preferred lineup. Also, Aussies believe in selecting first best 11 players and then a captain out of it. ODIs is as much about team dynamics as it is about good players. So, Clarke, who hasn't been playing much ODIs for last year or so, can't be considered as a regular.

  • Dummy4 on August 31, 2014, 4:33 GMT

    @online gamer, don't be surprised if marsh and clarke/bailey sit out for warner and watson, warner plays overall fairly well at 4 in short form cricket, and clarke's fitness is always doubtful, also marsh might be swapped for watson when he's fit and slotted in at 3, so the top 6 will be something like, finch hughes watson warner bailey maxwell haddin

  • No featured comments at the moment.