Zimbabwe, who are a stone's throw away from the semi-finals doors of the World Cup 1999, chose to be generous on Tuesday at Lord's. Winning the toss on a batsmen's paradise, Zimbabwe chose to invite Australia to bat first in a Super Six league match. That decision provided a grand entertainment with Mark Waugh of Australia and Zimbabwe's gifted all-rounder Neil Johnson walking into the list of century-makers of this Cup.
India's Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid (2), Sachin Tendulkar and Ajay Jadeja are the others decorating the list. Zimbabwe were as brave as they have been in this Cup championship but did not possess the material to chase and beat a side like Australia. Chasing 304 runs in 50 overs is a tall order in this meet where even a total in the vicinity of 250 is being considered as competitive. Zimbabwe, imaginative but inexperienced , paid the price but not as dearly as we expected.
They lasted till the end without getting all out. That must be rated as highly commendable considering the bowling strength of Australia. Zimbabwe owe a great deal to their opener Johnson who waged a courageous battle to see his side consuming all the 50 overs. Johnson returned to a standing ovation having made an unbeaen 132 off 144 balls with 15 fours and two six in a total of 259 for six . received the offer after the toss gleefully and raced to an imposing total fo 303 for four in 50. Opener Mark Waugh 's knock of 104 came off 121 balls with 13 fours.
Skipper Steve Waugh (62 off 61 balls) was concerned in a long association with his brother-152 runs for the third wicket. When Steve Waugh left it was 226 for three in 38.5 overs .That would tell who was dominating the proceedings. The brothers were all grace during their 24.4-over exhibition of batsmanship. Neil Johnson who played a lot of first-class cricket in South Africa before earning Zimbabwe citizenship has been a silent worker ,and, not for nothing , this Cup championship rates him as one of the few genuine all-rounders. He opens the bowling and the batting as well and does his job with admirable sense of commitment.
Today he set a healthy pattern when his side chased the huge target. There was hardly a dull moment . And the best period was when Johnson and Muuray Goodwin (47 off 56 balls) were together. Goodwin who had gained a lot of experience by playing first-class cricket in Australia and Johnson put on 114 runs in only 18.1 overs for the second wicket. This was the period which proved that this Australian attack could be tackled with fluent stroke-play if a batsman's heart is big enough to be in the international arena.
They smashed the bowling figures of almost all the bowlers with a special treatment to Shane Warne, a fox of a leg-spinner ,who conceded 29 runs in his first three overs. The amazing fashion in which Johnson and Goodwin were going , it even appeared that Zimbabwe were heading to swallow yet another giant after having consumed South Africa and India in the preliminaries. But Michael Bevan the Australian all-rounder put an end to this pair's progress. He had Goodwin caught by Tom Moody. Then medium-pacer Paul Reiffel took three quick wickets (Andy Flower,Alistair Campbell and Guy Whitall) to make the score 200 for six in 38.2 overs.