Zimbabwe battle but Australia A in charge
Zimbabwe XI 230 and 134 for 3 (Masakadza 40*) trail Australia A 439 (Hughes 125, Paine 98, Vitori 4-86) by 75 runs
Australia A captain Tim Paine narrowly missed out on a century as the visitors built a healthy lead on the third day at the Country Club in Harare. Paine was the last man out, dismissed for 98 to give hardworking left-arm seamer Brian Vitori his fourth wicket as Australia A finished on 439, 209 ahead of Zimbabwe XI's first-innings effort. Openers Vusi Sibanda and Tino Mawoyo once again survived the new ball but wickets fell late in the day to cement Australia's dominance.
Australia had started the day in a similarly healthy position, with Paine and Mitchell Marsh at the crease, but Keegan Meth struck almost immediately to remove Marsh, while Vitori got rid of Jason Krejza to lift the Zimbabweans. Australia A's lower order rallied, however, and Paine added 66 with Trent Copeland before taking the score well past 400 through a 53-run ninth-wicket stand with Ben Hilfenhaus.
Paine upped the tempo as he ran out of partners and looked set for a ton before he was caught by Elton Chigumbura off Vitori, who had dismissed Hilfenhaus earlier in the same over. Vitori finished with 4 for 86, while the expensive Tendai Chatara picked up two wickets and Chigumbura seemed to be starting to re-discover his bowling form with two wickets of his own.
Sibanda and Mawoyo had clung on for close to 55 overs in Zimbabwe XI's first innings and once again showed impressive tenacity, although neither was able to push on once they had seen off the new ball. The defensive Regis Chakabva then fell cheaply to Krejza but Hamilton Masakadza kept Zimbabwe afloat with a fluent 40 that included six fours. The hosts will be hoping for a lot more from him as they attempt to save the match on the fourth day.
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo