Zimbabwe Vs Australia
Starting time: 2:30 pm IST
Venue: Motera, Ahmedabad
It will be interesting to see Zimbabwe take on Australia for a number of reasons. For one, the two teams haven't faced off in a one-day encounter in nearly 7 years. Of course, Australia won on that occasion and convincingly as well - by 8 wickets with a 116 deliveries remaining, despite a graceful hand of 77 from 90 balls by present captain Elton Chigumbura. So one will first want to decipher if the equation between the teams is more or less the same, or if Zimbabwe is capable of defying history and pulling off something extraordinary.
After all, the team from southern Africa has shown some positive signs in both their warm ups. They may have lost those two games, but the aggressive manner in which its openers Charles Coventry and Brendon Taylor started the innings in their match against South Africa, making 49 in 9.4 overs, raised a few eye-brows. They even had Ireland in a desperate situation early in the latter's chase when they removed a couple of top-order batsmen for negligible scores.
But according to former Australian paceman Jason Gillespie who trains in the Zimbabwe domestic circuit, the side's latent weapon are its spinning trio of Ray Price, Graeme Cremer and Prosper Utseya. Gillespie has sounded a warning to his compatriots not to take this trio lightly. After all, Price being a slow-left-armer, Creme a leg-break and Utseya a right-arm off-break, this group possesses virtually the whole gamut of spin in their armoury.
And we've seen what the same combination has done to the Aussies in their warm-up match against India (being bowled out for 176 while chasing a modest 214). Ricky Ponting, who is coming off a broken finger injury may have played himself into some form, but his slowish innings over 50 in each of the two warm-ups, deprived the middle order of adequate batting time. So, the latter might be in for quite a test come Monday. But he along with Michael Clarke will be key-men for Australia and if Shane Watson gets going, he too could be a handful.
Ultimately, the difference between these two sides will come down to how well Zimbabwe is able to bat. After a poor showing in their warm-up against South Africa where they only managed to score 152 all out and a passable 244 against Ireland, they could do with some improvement. Tatenda Taibu, Elton Chigubura and Brendon Taylor all notched up 40-plus scores. But they would need to bat out of their skin if they are to take the fight to the Aussies on Monday.