| Andy Blignaut en route to his quickfire 54 . (Reuters)
Bulawayo: Australia comfortably overcame a spirited batting performance by Zimbabwe to score their fourth consecutive World Cup win Monday and almost secure a place in the Super Six from group A.
Zimbabwe, electing to bat first, scored a competitive 246 for nine with Andy Flower top-scoring with 62 and Andy Blignaut smashing a 28-ball 54 — the third fastest Cup fifty.
However, it was not enough as the defending champions romped home in 47.3 overs. The victory gave Australia 16 points and with two matches to go against minnows Namibia and England, only a miracle can deny the defending champions a place in the Super Six.
Adam Gilchrist was Australia’s top-scorer with 65-ball 61 that included eight boundaries. Damien Martyn (50 n.o.) and Darren Lehmann (56 n.o.) took the Aussies home after they were given by a sound start by Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden.
Gilchrist was given a life early in his innings and he made full use of that smashing the Zimbabwe bowlers to all corners of the park.
Hayden (34) produced a few sparkling shots, especially straight down the ground. He was the first to fall, caught by Grant Flower off Douglas Hondo.
Hayden’s dismissal slowed things down a bit as captain Ricky Ponting and Gilchrist added only 24 runs for the second wicket in just over seven overs before the wicket-keeper batsman was dismissed by Douglas Marillier.
Ponting shared another 43-run stand for the third wicket with Martyn before being caught and bowled by spinner Brian Murphy. But that was the last success for Zimbabwe as Martyn and Lehmann saw Australia through.
The day’s most entertaining knock, however, came from the unheralded Blignaut, whose blazing knock ensured a decent score for Zimbabwe. Blignaut smashed eight fours and two sixes to infuse life into the innings which was stumbling at 142 for six in the 37th over.
Blignaut was finally out when Brett Lee managed to hold on to a blinding return catch in the 45th over. Heath Streak then chipped in with a 19-ball 28 including two fours and a six while wicket-keeper Tatenda Taibu (23) played a useful hand.
Earlier, the Flower brothers had resurrected the Zimbabwe innings with a 84-run stand for the third wicket after Gillespie had dismissed both the openers cheaply.
Andy became the highest run-getter for Zimbabwe in World Cup when he reached 24, surpassing Dave Houghton’s 567.
Grant was run-out after scoring 37. Soon after, Andy was dismissed soon after by a superb Hogg flipper. He also claimed the wickets of Dion Ebrahim (15) and Marillier off successive deliveries before Blignaut stuck into him. (PTI)