Australia crush Zimbabwe by 91 runs

Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait shared six wickets in a superb display of fast bowling to fire Australia to a crushing 91-run win over Zimbabwe in their opening World Cup match on Monday.

Updated: March 01, 2011 14:04 IST
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Ahmedabad: Australia began their World Cup campaign on a winning note, wrapping up an easy 91-run win over a Zimbabwean outfit with no answer to the pace battery of Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson, who finished as the pick of the bowlers with 4 for 19. Zimbabwe had put in a spirited display in the field to keep Australia to 262 for 6 on a good batting wicket, but they never looked like chasing the runs down once a positive opening stand between Charles Coventry and Brendan Taylor had been broken.


With Lee and Tait steaming in with the new ball, Zimbabwe's openers had every reason to be nervous but they quickly shed their early jitters - Coventry's flambuoyant flash over cover point being a particular highlight - and started to settle before Lee switched his length with immediate reward. Digging the ball in, he drew a false stroke from Coventry and an ungainly hook resulted in a top edge that Lee himself charged round to catch.

Brendan Taylor did his best to overcome the setback but the revival was short-lived and after Tatenda Taibu glided Johnson straight to slip Tait beat Taylor for pace, aiming one full and straight and pin-balling it off bat and pad to disturb his stumps. It was extreme speed that did for Craig Ervine, too, as he took his eyes off a Johnson bumper to wear one on the grille and was pinned on the pad in front of middle and leg by the very next ball. With the Umpire unwilling to send him on his way, a successful referral was asked for and Zimbabwe's chase quickly began to slide towards the mire at 44 for 4 in the 13th over.

Williams didn't look particularly comfortable against Johnson either, but he and Chigumbura did at least manage to survive the onslaught and slowly began to rebuild against Australia's second string. The chase derailed completely when Chigumbura gloved Jason Krejza to Haddin for 14 in the 22nd over and Zimbabwe's last hopes evaporated soon after, Williams wafting Tait to slip as the score sank to 96 for 6. Despite some stubborn resistance from Prosper Utseya and Graeme Cremer, there was no coming back from there.

It had been a different story for Zimbabwe when they were in the field as some disciplined bowling and inspired fielding ensured Australia's batsmen never really got away from them. As has been the case so often in recent times, Shane Watson provided the bulk of the runs at the top of the order with a well-paced 79, while Michael Clarke guided their charge past 250 with an unbeaten 58.

Watson and Haddin made a strangely subdued start, and despite the admirable professionalism shown by Zimbabwe's attack one might have expected more than 28 runs to have come from the first Powerplay. While Chris Mpofu, the only specialist seamer in the side, maintained a disciplined off-stump line, Ray Price shared the new pill and also lived up to his unapologetically brusque reputation, laying into Watson before he'd even faced a ball.

The batsmen finally decided they had had enough of the wait-and-see tactic and broke loose with 17 off Mpofu's sixth over but Zimbabwe struck back when Utseya came on at the end of the first Powerplay. After an exemplary start to his spell - in which not a run was scored for the first nine deliveries he sent down - had his reward when Haddin stepped back to a flighted delivery and was struck in line with middle and leg. Umpire Asoka de Silva thought there might have been an inside edge, but Zimbabwe asked for a review - this being their first ever look at the UDRS - and had the decision over-turned.

After a quiet start to his innings Watson started to strike the ball with ominous force, lifting Cremer into the stands with a brutal pull, before he was removed by Zimbabwe's second fortuitous referral of the day. Stretching forward to a Cremer legbreak, Watson played with more pad than bat to prompt an emotive appeal. This time it was Umpire Richard Kettleborough who decided there was enough doubt to turn it down, but wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu insisted on a referral and Zimbabwe were rewarded with the result they wanted.

They were given a serious lift in the very next over as Ricky Ponting, in his first full international innings since his return from a finger injury, took on Mpofu's arm with a hard-run second as the ball rolled to midwicket. A pinpoint rocket throw hit the wicket directly to catch him well short to spark wild celebrations from Zimbabwe and with that Australia were 144 for 3. Clarke and Cameron White started their rebuilding effort cautiously and Zimbabwe never let the game get away from them, Mpofu recovering well from a cumbersome start to his spell at the death to rattle White's stumps and reduce Australia to 207 for 4.

David Hussey and Steve Smith came and went in quick succession but gave the innings some oomph while they were at the crease, both clearing the boundary with some powerful strokes. Clarke remained to guide Australia to a total which, while probably not as many as they would have hoped for, still proved far too much for a Zimbabwe line-up with precious little experience of facing express international fast bowling.

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