HARARE: Glenn Maxwell cracked his first half century since February as Australia struggled to overcome a weakened Zimbabwe by five wickets on the penultimate ball in the last round-robin match of the Twenty20 International tri-series on Friday.
Australia’s win in this dead rubber provides a welcome confidence boost ahead of their clash with number one ranked Pakistan in Sunday’s final.
Zimbabwe batted first and made 151 for nine in their 20 overs, led by 63 from all-rounder Solomon Mire.
In reply, Australia reached 154 when Matt Stoinis hit a boundary off the penultimate with five wickets down.
When Maxwell reached his first half century in a T20I since his hundred against England in Hobart in February, he gestured at his eyes. It was a reference to the work he and Australian coach Justin Langer have put in making sure Maxwell watches the ball.
“I’ve been doing a lot of work with JL recently, making sure I’m watching the ball as hard as I can,” Maxwell said. “I’ve been doing a lot of work with that in the nets, making sure I’m really concentrating. That’s all I’m thinking about at the moment. So that was just a little gesture towards him.”
Australia’s middle order was made to graft early by Zimbabwe, who nipped out openers Aaron Finch and Alex Carey in the first five overs.
Australia took just 35 runs from the Powerplay and it wasn’t until Maxwell began to find the middle of his bat that they started to bring the scoring rate down.
Maxwell was particularly harsh on Zimbabwe’s spinners, collecting sixes off Malcolm Waller, Wellington Masakadza and debutant Brandon Mavuta to bring up a 34-ball fifty in the 17th over.
“It was probably just the timing of when they were bowling,” Maxwell said of his assault on Zimbabwe’s slow bowlers. “I’d got myself in and I’d faced 10 or 15 balls and was able to expand from there. The off-spinner came on when I’d been out there for four or five overs, so that was the time for me to go.”
Together, Maxwell and Travis Head, who made 48, put on 103 for the third wicket to steady Australia’s chase. “It’s good batting with a guy like Heady, he takes a lot of pressure off you,” said Maxwell. “With the way he plays, he hits it in different areas and puts some pressure on the bowler. We’ve done it a few times, not just in T20 cricket but in one-day cricket as well.”
The pair seemed to have made the match safe for Australia, but Maxwell’s departure, driving fast bowler Blessing Muzarabani into the hands of Elton Chigumbura at extra cover, sparked a late fightback from the Zimbabweans.
They took three wickets in three overs after getting rid of Maxwell to take the game into the final over, but Stoinis lifted the penultimate ball over square leg to seal the match.
The challenging total set by the Zimbabweans was thanks mainly to Mire, who made 63 off 52 balls and helped his team recover from the dismissal of Cephas Zhuwao from the first ball of the morning.
Together with Peter Moor he rebuilt the innings with a 64-run fourth wicket stand. Moor eventually fell for 30, chasing quick runs, but Mire brought up a 44-ball fifty in the 17th over.
C. Zhuwao c Carey b Stanlake 0
S.F. Mire b Tye 63
H. Masakadza b Richardson 13
T.K. Musakanda c Wildermuth b Stanlake 12 P.J. Moor c Maddinson b Richardson 30
E. Chigumbura c Richardson b Tye 2
M.N. Waller c Richardson b Tye 13
D.T. Tiripano run out 0
Brandon Mavuta not out 6
W.P. Masakadza c Stoinis b Wildermuth 3
Extras (lb-1, w-8) 9
TOTAL (for nine wkts, 20 overs) 151 Fall of wkts: 1-0, 2-21, 3-44, 4-112, 5-116, 6-141, 7-142, 8-142, 9-151. Did not bat: B. Muzarabani
Bowling: Stanlake 4-1-21-2; Richardson 4-0-32-2 (6w); Stoinis 3-0-31-1 (1w); Agar 3-0-22-0; Tye 4-0-28-3 (1w); Wildermuth 2-0-16-1.
A.J. Finch c Musakanda b W. Masakadza 3
A.J. Carey c sub b Muzarabani 16 T.M. Head c W. Masakadza b Muzarabani 48
G.J. Maxwell c Chigumbura b Muzarabani 56
N.J. Maddinson c Muzarabani b Tiripano 2
M.P. Stoinis not out 12
A.C. Agar not out 5
EXTRAS (LB-4, W-8) 12
TOTAL (for five wkts, 19.5 overs) 154
FALL OF WKTS: 1-15, 2-26, 3-129, 4-134, 5-139. DID NOT BAT: J.D. Wildermuth, A.J. Tye, J.A. Richardson, B. Stanlake. BOWLING: W.P. Masakadza 4-0-32-1; Muzarabani 4-0-21-3 (2w); Tiripano 3.5-0-27-1 (3w); Mire 2-0-17-0; Mavuta 4-0-33-0 (3w); Waller 2-0-20-0. RESULT: Australia won by five wickets. UMPIRES: T.J. Matibiri (Zimbabwe) and R.B. Tiffin (Zimbabwe). TV UMPIRE: L. Rusere (Zimbabwe).
MATCH REFEREE: J.J. Crowe (New Zealand). MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Andrew Tye.
Published in Dawn, July 07th, 2018