Bulawayo: Reigning champion Australia became the first team at the World Cup to qualify for the Super Sixes when it brushed aside Zimbabwe by seven wickets on Monday. Adam Gilchrist led the way with 61 off 65 balls as Australia overhauled Zimbabwe's challenging 246 for nine with 15 deliveries to spare at the Queens sports club here. Australia's fourth consecutive win left them needing a victory over minnows Namibia at Potchefstroom on Thursday to top Group 'B'.
Zimbabwe, which has two wins in four games, will jostle with India, Pakistan and England for the two remaining Super Six berths from the group. Gilchrist hit eight boundaries after sharing an opening stand of 89 with Matthew Hayden. Damien Martyn and Darren Lehmann compiled unbeaten half-centuries to see the Australians through with a 92-run partnership for the fourth wicket. Lehmann hit the winning boundary to move to 56 not out, while Martyn remained unbeaten on 50. "There were a lot of contentious issues surrounding this game and about us coming here but I'd like to say that our thoughts are with the people of Zimbabwe who are going through some very difficult times," Gilchrist said.
Australia defied pressure from its government to play in strife-torn Zimbabwe, while England forfeited its match at Harare due to moral and security concerns. Earlier, Andy Flower hit back at critics who said he was under-performing at the World Cup with 62 and Andy Blignaut smashed the third-fastest half-century in the tournament to boost Zimbabwe's total. Blignaut finished with a quick fire 54 after reaching the landmark off 25 balls, third behind West Indians Brian Lara (23 balls) and Wavell Hinds who both achieved it against Canada on Sunday. Olonga was once again relegated to the reserves, like in the previous match against India, but Flower retained his place as the most experienced batsman in the team. "I'm not happy because we lost a game of cricket," Flower said.
"But it was a lovely day and I hope that there will be many more in this country." Andy and brother Grant Flower put on 84 for the third wicket after a double strike from Jason Gillespie reduced Zimbabwe 28 for two. Grant was run out after a misunderstanding with Andy, who was himself bowled by a ball that kept low from left- arm spinner Brad Hogg. Hogg ensured Australia did not miss the banned Shane Warne as he claimed the wickets of Dion Ebrahim and Douglas Marillier to finish with three for 46 from eight overs. Left-handed Blignaut plundered eight boundaries and two sixes before falling to a brilliant return catch by Brett Lee.
"Some of the balls were there to hit, some weren't," Blignaut said. "It's just a question of closing my eyes and what will be, will be. "When we bowled, we didn't really get it in the right spot. If we did, it could have been a different story." Copyright AFP 2001