Zimbabwe v Australia, Tri-series, Harare

Australia in trial mode as Clarke returns

The Preview by Rachna Shetty

August 30, 2014

Comments: 31 | Text size: A | A

Match facts

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

Michael Clarke goes through his fitness test ahead of the tri-series, Harare, August 24, 2014
Michael Clarke has regained fitness after being sidelined from the first half of the series due to a hamstring niggle © AFP
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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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by enlightenedone 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.

Posted by   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!

Posted by xtrafalgarx 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?

Posted by   on (August 31, 2014, 6:35 GMT)

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

Posted by   on (August 31, 2014, 6:14 GMT)

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

Posted by bren19 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.

Posted by Mindmeld 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.

Posted by xtrafalgarx 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.

Posted by sarangsrk 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.

Posted by   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

Posted by onlinegamer55 on (August 31, 2014, 3:45 GMT)

@lian_14 Warner's ODI record is in fact surprisingly underwhelming - averages 31 with a strike rate of 82. Hughes averages 37 with a strike rate of 85. Hughes has scored the only double century by an Australian male in List A cricket, something not any of the aggressive one day players in the past for Australia could achieve. I agree perhaps that he might not be as destructive as Warner at his best in general, but I think Hughes is likely to be more consistent. We do need big hitters but also consistent run-makers in a well-balanced one day squad to avoid collapses. Jonathan Trott played that role beautifully for England even though he isn't a big hitter and won lots of games for them.

Steve Smith has been given ample opportunity and hasn't performed. I was surprised they picked him over Hughes to begin with and now Hughes has proven the selectors wrong ... again. If he continues this excellent form, then we will make it hard for Warner to return to the side.

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (August 31, 2014, 3:44 GMT)

@Jono Makim: I am one of Steve Smith biggest supporters. I was in his corner when everyone was bashing him before the indian tour in 2013. Now however, people have gone too far the other and are giving him plaudits in areas where he shouldn't be getting any.

Our top three batsmen since the 2011 world cup:

1) George Bailey: 1,727 runs at an average of 52.33. 2) Shane Watson: 1,613 runs at an average of 40.33 3) Michael Clarke 1,522 runs at an average of 46.12 (And Captaincy)

Yet i have heard people calling for S. Smith to be picked over each of these three players. The cold hard facts are that these guys are out best players, don't let yourself be blinded by the fact that you want your personal favourites being picked ahead of proper good players. With Warner, Finch and Maxwell, there is your top 6 and no room for Smith.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (August 31, 2014, 3:39 GMT)

Only a few cricket records stand the test of time. Some, like Sir Don's batting average, may be timeless. ODI records however are regularly broken. Few last for decades.

Joel Garner's record for Best ODI Bowling Average - 18.84 - has stood for 27 years since he retired in 1987. Ryan Harris' ave of 18.90, just 0.05 behind the great Garner's, is since 2012 well ahead of any current bowler.

Qualification for the record is 1000 balls bowled. In yesterday's Zimbabwe vs South Africa ODI, a bowler ended his spell on exactly 1000 balls! He did not just enter the records list; he HEADS it with a stunning ave of 17.82, a FULL RUN better than Garner!

Who could this be? Mr. Hat Trick, Prosper Utseya? Dale Steyn? Mitch Johnson?


The record is, for now, held by the seldom-lauded Mohammad Imran Tahir, who in relentless pursuit of his cricketing goals set the unique record of representing the most 1st class, List A & Twenty20 teams - a staggering 28!

I guess he got a lot of practice?

Posted by PFEL on (August 31, 2014, 2:59 GMT)

@Jono Makim, Australia were nowhere near at full strength early in this series. They were missing 4 of their best 5 players (Warner, Watson, Clarke, Harris) and arguably their best bowler (McKay), but he was dropped on purpose . . . I have no doubt that full strength the Australians are the team to beat in world cricket at the moment, in all forms of the game, and the South Africans are a close second. Zimbabwe are a couple of leagues out though.

Posted by   on (August 31, 2014, 2:46 GMT)

In world I believe team is aus but now a days they r also making drama I think.

Posted by   on (August 31, 2014, 1:43 GMT)

Clarke needs to heat up for World Cup that is coming up.

Posted by   on (August 31, 2014, 1:40 GMT)

Clarke is awesome and he just needs to work in putting his game up, he is just preparing for World Cup so he will heat up.

Posted by   on (August 31, 2014, 1:35 GMT)

Smith has had 36 ODI matches with an average of 20.... Enough already. He doesn't quite fit as an ODI player in my opinion. Plenty more damaging players that can come in lower down the order.

Posted by   on (August 31, 2014, 1:29 GMT)

Again it will be one sided affair and no real test for the visitors and this is thing exactly happened against South Africa

Posted by Cricket24 on (August 31, 2014, 0:14 GMT)

Steven Smith should be in the team, although I'm not sure for who; maybe for faulkner or someone like Clarke.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (August 31, 2014, 0:11 GMT)

RoyRulez: Smith isnt going to replace Marsh in the above team as Marsh will be expected to bowl 10 overs and Smith can't do that.

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (August 30, 2014, 23:12 GMT)

A good opportunity for Aussies to bat 1st,carry on decent work of batting unit with a 3rd 300+ score in a row.With around 350 on board it will be a nice little workout for bowlers who have shown bit of rust esp. v SA.Also a chance for Lyon to pick a few.

Posted by CricketChat on (August 30, 2014, 22:37 GMT)

My prediction for this match is Aussie win by 75-100 runs if they bat first or by 6 wkts if they bat second (with 8-10 overs to spare or better). Zimbabwe's learning process continues..

Posted by RoyRulez on (August 30, 2014, 18:58 GMT)

Mitch Marsh picked ahead of Steven Smith!!! Surprising!!!

Michael Clarke picked ahead of Steven Smith!!! even more surprising!!!

Posted by lian_14 on (August 30, 2014, 17:48 GMT)

I do believe the reason why Hughes often is overlooked is because of his strike rate. He's not like a Warner or a Finch who can take the game to the opposition and that is what Darren Lehmann seemingly wants from all his batters. I would say Clarke is also in the same mould. I've seen instances where he would try to accelerate the innings, but would lose his wicket, because it's not his natural game to do so. If Bailey had shown to a better captain in this format, then I reckon Steve Smith would have taken up Clarke's spot, but that hasn't been the case. Clarke's captaincy is what saves him his spot ahead of others, in my opinion. I know he has a great ODI record and he's got a great batting technique etc, but I just feel he's a little behind in this form of the game, he doesn't seem to have that next gear in him. This is just my opinion. I could be wrong and he might just come out and blast a century tomorrow in no time...

Posted by ZCFOutkast on (August 30, 2014, 17:13 GMT)

Zimbabwe got th ebowling right in the last game. With Sibanda back in the fold, I expect them to get batting right, but not the other this time around.

Raza, Sibanda, Hami, Taylor(wk), Williams, Chigumbura(c), Maruma, Vitori, Utseya, Chatara, Nyumbu

Posted by   on (August 30, 2014, 17:02 GMT)

@xtrafalgarx, I don't really see that Aus are handing over their no.1 ranking, they are at full strength really, arguably only Harris, Warner and Watto would improve the team and none of them are available. I'd actually strongly consider having Smith in our full strength side in front of Clarke, particularly if Clarke can't bowl, but that's just me. Smith has been okay in the ODI team I reckon, just never been given any real opportunity, he could be great at 3 or 4.

Posted by creebo777 on (August 30, 2014, 16:19 GMT)

bat first zimbabwe..ausies bowling looks weak

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (August 30, 2014, 16:09 GMT)

Steve Smith isn't needed in this team. People have been calling for him to be included, but he just doesn't fit into the team. Especially over batmen with better records.

It's become very clear that this tour is very much an experimental one with Richardson, Marsh, Smith and Cutting getting goes whereas they probably wouldn't get into the fist team. Very surprising as the no.1 ranking is on the line this series, i guess they figure it could be won at other times but i wouldn't have let it go this easily.

Posted by   on (August 30, 2014, 15:33 GMT)

where is tripaino in zim

Posted by   on (August 30, 2014, 14:55 GMT)

Steve smith is needed in ODI s the guy can be a great finisher .Unfortunately it is only michael clarke who can make way for smith but that will not happen .Though clarke has a good record in ODI I would rather he not play ODI after WC 2015 .

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