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Aus-Zim match abandoned

Last updated on: January 29, 2004 15:17 IST


The VB triseries one-day match between Australia-Zimbabwe at Melbourne Cricket Ground was abandoned on Thursday after heavy rains lashed the ground before the start of the Zimbabwean innings.

Both teams were awarded three points. Australia, alongwith India, have already qualified for the final.

Earlier, Australia posted a competitive total of 263 for nine wickets against a spirited Zimbabwean attack that kept taking wickets at regular intervals in the triangular series one-day match at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday.

Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak won the toss and elected to field first in overcast conditions. Australia, already qualified for the finals against India, rested paceman Jason Gillespie and all-rounder Andrew Symonds and recalled Andy Bichel and Ian Harvey.

Zimbabwe made two changes to the side that lost to Australia by 13 runs in Adelaide on Monday, giving Blessing Mahwire his first cap and recalling opening batsman Vusi Sibanda. Stuart Matsikenyeri and top-order batsman Travis Friend were dropped.

The Zimbabwean bowlers were favoured by the conditions in the early going but openers Damien Martyn and Matthew Hayden responded with typical Australian gusto.

Martyn has had a wretched series so far, averaging only 15.6 runs per innings with the bat. But given enough chances he will surely come good, such is his class.

Today we saw glimpses of his true form. He played some sublime shots on both sides of the wicket and brought his bad run of form to a temporary halt, before a ball nipped back off the wicket and crashed into his pads to give Streak and Zimbabwe a vital wicket. It was virtually the first ball Martyn missed in his innings.

Just before his dismissal there was a sight drizzle and the danger of a downpour might have played on Martyn's mind. The right-hander was gone for just gone for 42 off just 40 balls.(59-1)

Play was suspended soon after for 21 minutes but overs were not lost.

Zimbabwe struck soon after resumption to claim the wicket of Hayden. The left-hander, who looked to be setting himself up for a huge hundred, was dismissed when he played onto the stumps off the bowling of Douglas Hondo even as the rain came down once again. (71-2)

But the umpires decided to continue playing. The Aussies looked to be in a fair bit of trouble and were lucky when Ponting was dropped by Mahwire early in his innings.

At the end of 15 overs, Australia were 81.

Another wicket followed after a short interval, when Michael Clarke, batting at number four, was sent back to the pavilion on 11. He shouldered arms to a delivery that pitched outside the off-stump but came back to hit the top of off-stumps and give Mahwire his first wicket in international cricket.

The spinners, Grant Flower and Ray Price, as always, got Zimbabwe back into the game when things started to assume dangerous proportions for them.

Harvey was striking the ball well and was playing the perfect foil to Ponting at the other end when he was run-out. Flower was the bowler. Harvey pushed to mid-wicket and set off, but a slight misunderstanding saw him struggle to get back even as Blignaut threw to the keeper. The partnership between Ponting and Harvey was worth 42. (139/4)

Then Price struck a huge blow for the Africans and Ponting (38) continued his struggles against quality left-arm spinners. He got down on one knee in a bid to sweep Price into the stands but hit it straight to Mahwire at square leg. (155/5)

At this point, the match could have gone either way. A few quick wickets could have seen Zimbabwe assume complete control of the proceedings. Instead, Brad Haddin (32 off 46 balls including 2 fours and 2 sixes) and Michael Bevan combined well to guide Australia out of a dangerous position.

The 200 of the innings came in the 40th over.

Zimbabwe, as a team, have continued to improve through the series and today was another example. After getting thrashed in their earlier games, they have run both India and Australia close.

Streak, Zimbabwe's most consistent performer by far, got Haddin eventually. The Australia wicket-keeper went back to a short ball and tried to play the pull, but a bottom edge thudded into the stumps to put an end to a vital 58-run partnership.

Bevan guided Australia well from this point on as they reached 263 for the loss of nine wickets. The left-hander was dismissed for a typical run-a-ball 56, which embodies the kind of batting he has become so well-known for: quick singles and the occasional boundary, exactly the recipe Zimbabwe will have to follow if they wish to record their first win of the series.

The feature of Australia's innings was all-round contributions. Even though no batsman went on to reach a century, they still managed to post a respectable total. There were important partnerships worth 40-50 runs all along and that prevented the game from getting away from them.

Ashish Magotra