Bulawayo: Australia’s assault on a new world one-day International record is in danger of being swept away by torrential rain which has turned the Queen’s Sports Club into a swamp.
Ricky Ponting’s world champions need to beat Zimbabwe Monday as well as Namibia and England to take them past the record of 11 successive one-day International wins set by the great West Indies side of the 1980s.
After weeks of drought leading to wilting crops and dying cattle, more than 140 millimetres of rain for the last two days has turned the playing area into a swamp.
Australia have named a full-strength side, with strike bowler Brett Lee, wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist and wrist spinner Brad Hogg back after being rested. Allrounder Ian Harvey, wicketkeeper-batsman Jimmy Maher and Andy Bichel, who played in Thursday’s 75-run win over Holland, miss out.
The home side desperately wants to play the match and are determined not to be overawed by a team whom they have beaten only once — in their first meeting 20 years ago in the 1983 World Cup in England.
“We have had one or two spectacular wins in the past,” said Zimbabwe skipper Heath Streak. “We beat South Africa in the 1999 World Cup and everybody knows that, on our day, we can beat anyone here.
“Whether we get that day depends on batsmen going on to big scores and big partnerships and whether we can get a good start and bowl well in the first few overs. “These aspects have been lacking of late, but you never know from match to match.
Australia flew into this railway and industrial centre Sunday morning, play the game and leave straight after, conscious of the politically volatile climate that prompted England to boycott their scheduled appointment with Streak’s men in Harare earlier in the tournament.
It, however, remains to be seen whether the protesting Zimbabwean players Andy Flower and Henry Olonga will feature in the match after both were warned to either drop their anti-Robert Mugabe protest or face being axed from the national team.
The duo has worn black armbands and wristbands to protest against conditions.
Zimbabwe (from): Heath Streak (capt.), Andy Blignaut, Dion Ebrahim, Sean Ervine, Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Travis Friend, Douglas Hondo, Douglas Marillier, Brian Murphy, Henry Olonga, Tatenda Taibu, Mark Vermeulen, Guy Whittall, Craig Wishart.
Australia: Ricky Ponting (capt.), Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Michael Bevan, Andrew Symonds, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Glenn McGrath.
Umpires: David Orchard (SA) and Billy Bowden (NZ)
Third Umpire: Brian Jerling (SA)
Match Referee: G. Vishwanath (Ind).