Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh both fell agonisingly short of centuries but still helped Australia to a record One-day International tally at the Harare Sports Club as they crushed Zimbabwe by 198 runs on Monday.
Australia’s 350 for six off 50 overs beat by 10 runs the highest total for any team at the venue in an ODI and marked a satisfying start to preparations for the World Cup they co-host with New Zealand early next year. Zimbabwe could only muster 152 in reply, bowled out with more than 10 overs left in the opening match of the triangular series in Zimbabwe’s capital.
The 25-year-old Maxwell hit a rapid-fire 93 off 46 balls before being caught in the deep as he swung lustily trying to hit a third successive six. He had been on course to break teammate James Faulkner’s 57-ball record for the fastest Australian ODI hundred. Marsh was out for 89 off 83 balls but the century partnership between the pair contributed to a blistering 147 runs off the last 10 overs.
Maxwell included an outrageous display of ambidextrous shot making in his innings, hitting nine fours and clearing the boundary five times.
But the most powerful shot of the innings came from Mitchell Johnson whose six off Tinashe Panyangara in the penultimate over struck the window of the television commentary box, shattering the glass and cutting commentator Mpumelelo Mbangwa, the former Zimbabwe Test bowler. He was not seriously hurt.
Aaron Finch helped Australia get off to good start but was caught down the leg side for 67 while fellow opener Brad Haddin was first out for 46 just before Australia reached three figures in the 18th over.
Zimbabwe lost their first wicket after eight balls when Tino Mawoyo was trapped leg before by Mitchell Starc but Hamilton Masakadza and the Pakistan-born Sikandar Raza put on 63 for the second wicket as the home side displayed some fighting spirit. But after Raza was caught, Masakadza watched a procession of partners come and go at regular intervals before he was seventh man out, stumped for 70. Johnson conceded only seven runs in the six overs he bowled, taking one wicket.
Australia next play South Africa at the same venue on Wednesday in the second game of the tri-series in which each country will play each other twice with a final to follow on September 6.
Australia, without captain Michael Clarke who missed the game because of a hamstring strain, were playing their first ODI since beating England in Adelaide in late January. They have a minimum of 15 ODIs planned before the World Cup starts next February.
Brief scores: Australia 350/6 in 50 overs (G Maxwell 93, M Marsh 89, A Finch 67). Zimbabwe 152 all out in 39.3 overs (H Masakadza 70; S Smith 3/16). Australia won by 198 runs.