Moments after the toss a heavy shower scudded across Newlands and sent the groundstaff hurrying for the covers. The rain cleared after about 15 minutes, in time for a prompt start, but it had added a smidgen more life to the surface and it was a little helping hand for the Zimbabwe bowlers. Anything to even the scales was very welcome.
Matthew Hayden tries to intimidate bowlers from the first ball, striding down the crease and flexing his broad shoulders. When he thumped his first delivery through midwicket for a dismissive boundary it seemed business as usual. But the next ball from Elton Chigumbura nipped away off the seam and Hayden edged a flashing cut through to the wicketkeeper. It was only the start of Australia's problems.
There would have been long odds on Australia's first six of the ICC World Twenty20 coming in the 14th over. But such were the difficulties faced against the moving ball (and Zimbabwe's nagging medium-pacers were making the most of the conditions) Australia's first priority was for some consolidation. Finally, Brad Hodge produced a meaty swing over midwicket against the part-time leg spin of Hamilton Masakadza. It shouldn't be a surprise that Hodge helped Australia's recovery; he is the leading run-scorer worldwide in Twenty20.
Tatenda Taibu is the complete multi-dimensional cricketer - which is just what's needed in this format. He's a quality batsman and could easily have taken the wicketkeeping gloves for this match. Instead they went to Brendan Taylor and in the 13th over Taibu found himself at the bowling crease with some medium pace. The move didn't quite work out and he was the only Zimbabwe bowler to have an economy rate in double figures. But after his performance behind the stumps, Taylor won't be surrendering the gloves in a hurry.
Normally facing Brett Lee wouldn't be high on a batsman's wish list, but it helped Zimbabwe early on in their chase. An edge from Vusi Sibanda flew wide of second slip and raced down to third man, then the extra pace of Lee aided the same batsman to slot him twice through the covers. Compare this to when the Australians faced Zimbabwe's medium-pacers - it was a real struggle for them to get the ball away.
With Zimbabwe's asking-rate growing it was vital they kept the scoreboard ticking, and it led to some helter-skelter running. In the 10th over Stuart Matsikenyeri drove square to Brad Hodge at point and sprinted off for a run. He got a third of the way down before realising it wasn't on and would have been out by miles. Instead he survived at both ends, and picked up an overthrow, as Australia missed with consecutive shies.
There were plenty of signs that this was the first game for Australia after a five-month off season, but Andrew Symonds' misfield at extra cover is a sight not seen very often. Taylor drove the ball firmly, but not with huge power, and it went through Symonds' slightly creaky attempt to make the save. The two runs Taylor scampered brought Zimbabwe level on Duckworth/Lewis, and Australia were very twitchy.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer on Cricinfo