A double-century opening partnership and a record Twenty20 international (T20I) score of 172 by Australia captain Aaron Finch completely dominated the Brighto Paints presents J. Cup T20 Tri-series match against Zimbabwe at Harare Sports Club today.
Zimbabwe only appeared to be competing on even terms with Australia at the start of their reply, with some spirited batting from their top order, the top five batsmen all looking good briefly, but none of them stayed to play the major innings necessary.
Remarkably, this was only the second time Zimbabwe has played Australia in a T20I match, the previous occasion being back in 2007 – which Zimbabwe won.
On another cool, clear morning Zimbabwe won the toss and put Australia in to bat on a pitch that looked generally good for batting, but with a few darker patches.
Their only team change was Chris Mpofu for the injured Kyle Jarvis, while Australia played an unchanged team from that which beat Pakistan on Monday.
John Nyumbu and Blessing Muzarabani opened the bowling to Finch and D’Arcy Short, who had little difficulty from the start in picking up ones and twos, together with boundaries off selected deliveries.
In the third over Finch hit Nyumbu for three successive fours, although the third one, in the air, was just out of reach of the extra-cover fielder.
Finch was letting fly at everything, the team fifty coming up in the fifth over, and the following over the skipper brought up his own fifty off only 22 balls, with a high six over midwicket off Mpofu.
The team hundred came up in the 10th over, by which time Finch had reached 75 and was battering almost all the bowlers virtually at will.
The exception was Tendai Chisoro, who bowled his four overs with superb guile and accuracy for only 19 runs, and did not concede a boundary until his penultimate delivery, when Finch stepped right back and hit the ball over long-off for six to take him to 98.
In the next over Finch reached his century off 50 balls, at the end of 14 overs, with the score on 143.
His own personal next target was his own record individual T20I score of 156, scored against England in 2013.
The score raced past the previous record opening partnership in T20Is, 171, which had been held by New Zealand.
The team 200 came up after 18 overs, followed by Finch’s 150 off 69 balls, followed by a flat-batted swat over extra cover for six two balls later to break his own record.
The partnership was finally broken in the last over, as Short, attempting a big hit for his own fifty, sent up a big skyer off Muzarabani that was well held by the wicketkeeper PJ Moor.
The partnership ended at 223, with Short having faced 42 balls for his 46.
With two balls left, Finch’s amazing innings ended in bizarre fashion, as he chased a wide ball from Muzarabani outside his off stump, overbalanced and hit his wicket.
His final score was 172, scored off 76 balls with 16 fours and 10 sixes, while the innings ended at 229 for two wickets.
One small relief for Zimbabwe was that this was not even an Australian record for the highest T20Il total — there have been 14 higher totals, the greatest of which was 263 for three by Australia against Sri Lanka in 2016.
It was, however, the highest total conceded by Zimbabwe in this format, beating 215 for six by Afghanistan in 2016.
Quite apart from the boundaries, it was notable that during the Australia innings Finch and Short showed a fine ability to turn singles into twos.
Muzarabani finished with two for 38 off his four overs, in contrast to the carnage wreaked on the other bowlers, with the heroic exception of Chisoro.
Zimbabwe opened their batting with Chamu Chibhabha and Solomon Mire against the bowling of Billy Stanlake, who had destroyed the Pakistan batting the previous day, and Jhye Richardson.
Twice in Stanlake’s opening over, over-enthusiastic fielding gave Chibhabha extra runs for overthrows.
With three wides thrown in, Zimbabwe had 10 runs on the board after that first over.
Stanlake scarcely looked the same bowler as the previous day when Mire hammered his inaccurate deliveries for three fours and a six in his second over.
Richardson was a little better, and Chibhabha hit him for four and a pulled six, together with two wides, before edging an attempted cut to the keeper via his pads.
He made 18 and Zimbabwe were 42 for one in the fourth over.
With Hamilton Masakadza in, Zimbabwe passed 50 in the fifth over.
Mire, having scored 28 including five boundaries and a single six, appeared fortunate to be given not out to an lbw appeal from the left-arm spinner Ashton Agar when he missed a reverse sweep, but he then drove a catch straight to mid-on off Stanlake; 57 for two in the sixth over.
Tarisai Musakanda came in and immediately hit the next delivery over long-on for six, while Masakadza was dropped when he hit a low chance to Andrew Tye at long-on.
The Australian fielding up to this point had been very inconsistent.
Agar, changing ends, removed Musakanda for 10, lbw when he missed a conventional sweep.
Moor soon got hold of Short’s left-arm chinaman bowling, hitting him for two fours and an effortless six over long-on off successive deliveries.
In Agar’s next over Masakadza fell for 12 to an easy stumping, and then Moor, who had looked so good briefly for 19, chipped a simple return catch to Tye to make the score 98 for five in the 11th over.
The hundred came up in the following over, but the batsmen became bogged down, and Chigumbura, on seven, aiming to break the shackles with a six off Tye, only succeeded in sending a catch to long-on; 101 for six.
Glenn Maxwell came on to bowl and Chisoro hit a short ball for a big six over long-on. He tried to repeat the stroke next ball and was easily caught; 108 for seven.
As was the case against Pakistan, the Zimbabwe tail had little fight to offer.
Ryan Burl played doggedly for 10, but when he finally opened his shoulders to drive Tye, he hit a catch straight to long-on.
Mpofu blocked and pushed resolutely for three off 16 balls before a half-hearted drive yielded a simple catch.
Nyumbu, coming in last, did make an effort to reduce the deficit to below 100 runs, with six not out off nine balls, while Muzarabani was not out with a single, the final total being 129 for nine, after being at one stage 90 for three.
This was Zimbabwe’s heaviest defeat in a T20I.
Tye was the most successful bowler, with three wickets for 10 runs, while Agar took two.
The only real positives for Zimbabwe were the fine bowling of Chisoro, and the fact that the top order showed that the attack can be taken to the Australian bowlers, if only they can stay to build a significant innings.
Billy StanlakeBlessing MuzarabaniChamu ChibhabhaHamilton MasakadzaTarisai Musakanda