Zimbabwe beat Australia for the first time in 31 years on Sunday as captain Elton Chigumbura’s 52 not out led his team to a famous three-wicket win in the ODI triangular series.
Chigumbura carried the tournament host to 211-7, overhauling Australia’s below-par 209-9 on a tough batting strip at Harare Sports Club.
Opposite number Michael Clarke also made an unbeaten half-century for Australia on his return from injury, but then re-injured his hamstring in only his country’s second loss ever to the southern African team and said he would leave the tournament to return home for treatment.
It was Zimbabwe’s first win over the Australians since they met in ODIs for the first time at the 1983 World Cup. Chigumbura had valuable help from Prosper Utseya, who was 30 not out in a match-winning half-century partnership at the end.
“I had to be there until the end,” Chigumbura said. “The most important thing was to stay calm. The guys worked very hard for this and the supporters were behind us throughout.”
The tense victory _ sealed with two overs to spare but after Zimbabwe was struggling at 156-7 _ sparked rare celebrations and a lap of honor for a team that recently lost two ODIs in a row to draw a series with lowly Afghanistan and had been beaten in its previous seven one-dayers at home.
Utseya, whose 30 came off just 28 balls to help carry Zimbabwe home, sealed the win by launching a six over mid-wicket and into the delighted home crowd. The victory keeps alive Zimbabwean hopes of making Saturday’s final of the three-team tournament. Australia, which has lost its last two games, plays South Africa on Tuesday. Australia started the triangular series as the top-ranked team in ODIs but had slipped down to fourth after Sunday’s surprise loss.
Zimbabwe’s long-awaited success was built on its earlier spin bowling effort as the Australian batsmen struggled on a slow, turning pitch to only just get past 200, with only Clarke looking completely settled with his 68 not out.
“Definitely not enough runs,” Clarke said, “but credit to Zimbabwe, they bowled well and batted well. We lost the match during our innings, and Zimbabwe showed us how to play spin.”
Clarke hit his half-century in his first international in six months and after passing a fitness test to play, but retired hurt in the 43rd over just as Australia appeared to be slowly recovering from a poor start.
The Aussies had been 97-5 after Zimbabwe’s spinners struck early and quickly, but Clarke built a 50-run stand with Brad Haddin (49) before he made the decision to limp off and limit any damage to his hamstring. He returned briefly for the last over.
Haddin was supported by Ben Cutting (26) down the order but the Australians ultimately continued…