Johannesburg: Zimbabwe will be rank outsiders when it takes on reigning champions and tournament favourite Australia in a World Cup Group 'A' match in Bulawayo on Monday. But while the omens are not good - Zimbabwe has lost 18 of its 19 One-dayers against Australia - it can console it self with the knowledge that there was a time when the odds were even more heavily stacked against it and yet it still won. Zimbabwe's first-ever One-day International produced one of the all-time great shocks when it beat Australia in its World Cup debut at Trent Bridge in 1983.
Captained by current England coach Duncan Fletcher the Africans stunned the cricket world with a 13-run win against an Australia side boasting such legendary names as Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and Rodney Marsh. Zimbabwe's performance that day was anchored by a brilliant individual performance from Fletcher who produced a copybook example of how to lead from the front. Batting at number six, Fletcher top scored with an unbeaten 69 that guided Zimbabwe to 239 for six in 60 overs.
But an Australian batting line-up featuring the likes of Kepler Wessels, David Hookes and Allan Border would still have fancied its chances of overhauling the target against the unheralded Zimbabwe attack. However, it had reckoned without the fast-medium bowling of Fletcher. In 11 overs he took four for 42, dismissing opener Graeme Wood, Australia captain Kim Hughes, Hookes and Graham Yallop. Marsh finished unbeaten on 50 but Australia ran out of overs as Zimbabwe created the biggest upset yet seen in World Cup cricket.
Pace bowling all-rounder Kevin Curran, who scored 27 and took one for 38 in the match, said planning and inspirational leadership had been the key to its victory "Those were the days when people called us the pretenders and minnows of international cricket. We were just a side led by Duncan Fletcher which went about with a game-plan in a methodical manner," explained Curran, now Zimbabwe's assistant coach. "Actually, we were the best fielding side in the tournament. Duncan was instrumental in this. It was Zimbabwe which introduced high standards of fielding in limited- overs cricket," added Curran who enjoyed a successful career in English county cricket with Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire.
"This was because we knew we didn't have the individual talents of bigger Test nations. So we just got out there and saved the 20-30 runs in the field and converted the half chances. That helped us to win a lot of games." But if Zimbabwe, now coached by former Australia batsman Geoff Marsh, is to beat Australia for a second time brilliant fielding alone may not be enough. Copyright AFP 2001