Zimbabwe lose CWC opener by 91 runs

cricket_batZimbabwe lost their opening game of the 2011 World Cup by 91 runs to Australia in the 55,000-seater Sardar Patel Stadium but they caused the defending champions plenty of problems and emerged with considerably more credit than most observers thought was possible given the disparity of skill and experience between the teams.

Having restricted Australia to a modest 262-6 in fine batting conditions, Zimbabwe slumped to a disappointing 171 all out in reply but won plenty of new admirers and had much to feel satisfied about.

Although the top order batting displayed its all-too-familiar fragility against fast bowling in the run chase, the bowling unit rose magnificently to the challenge of containing Ricky Pontings champions and their final total was both below par for the conditions as well as general expectations.

The three front line spinners were outstanding. Ray Price shouldered the burden of opening the bowling while both he and Prosper Utseya delivered the majority of their overs during power-play situations with scant protection in the deep. Both men conceded just 43 runs from their 10 overs there will be few better performances in the tournament from spinners against a top batting order.

Leg spinner Graeme Cremer enjoyed the comparative comfort of bowling in the middle overs but still deserves great credit for maintaining an immaculate line during ten overs which earned him 1-41. Both Cremer and Utseya also made a significant point to the officiators of world cricket by claiming lbw wickets with the aid of the third umpire.

Time and time again in recent years Zimbabwes bowlers have noted with mounting frustration how international umpires are less inclined to award decisions in their favour, especially when the opposition are a major power. Despite it being the first game Zimbabwe have ever played with the use of television referrals, they trusted their instincts and had two decisions reversed in their favour.

Sri Lankan umpire Asoka de Silva and Englishmen Richard Kettleborough gave openers Brad Haddin (29) and Shane Watson (79) not out but first Utseya and then Cremer asked for a review and got their men.

Team managements decision to select Reggie Chakabva as an extra batsman instead of Shingi Masakadza as an additional bowling option meant that Elton Chigumbura had to share the fifth bowlers allocation of 10 overs between himself and part-timers Taylor and Sean Williams. It was certainly the correct selection option or would have been if captain Chigumbura was not so wretchedly short of form and confidence with the ball at the moment.

Chigumburas only two overs cost 18 runs while Taylor, who conceded 12 in his first, bowled three overs for 23. Their five overs for 41 gave the otherwise bogged down Aussies the room for manoeuvre and escape they desperately needed.

So it will fall to another team to end Australias 12-year, 30-match unbeaten run at the World Cup while Zimbabwe travel to Nagpur where they will be strong favourites to beat minnows Canada in their second match on February 28.

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