CricInfo at World Cup 1999
[The ICC Cricket World Cup - England 1999]

Australia v Zimbabwe, 9 June 1999

John Ward

Why you should watch: Zimbabwe will be keen to impress on their first-ever appearance at Lord's. Australia cannot afford to lose, so it will be a hard match.

Zimbabwe player to watch: Andy Flower

Australia player to watch: Shane Warne

Listen on the stump mike for: Probably not a lot of aggro. Zimbabweans don't rub up the Australians as badly as a number of other teams and sledging has rarely occurred in the past. However, Australia's critical position may persuade certain well-known individuals to rise to the occasion.

Neutrals may care to enjoy: Some power hitting by Adam Gilchrist, seeing how the Australians handle Henry Olonga, watching a classic battle between the left-handed Andy Flower and Shane Warne.

Schadenfreude potential: Watching Zimbabwe's tail-enders hash up the last ten overs yet again, seeing Heath Streak adding to his wides total, Australian discomfort if Olonga is on song.

Old lags: The Waughs and Tom Moody (all 33)

Young pups: Henry Olonga (22)

CricInfo prediction: A comfortable Australian victory

After Zimbabwe cleaned up South Africa, it would obviously be inappropriate to write them off against any opposition now. But, when everything is taken into account, it is difficult to see them beating Australia in this match so crucial to the latter. Their main hope is that the pressure will take its toll on Australia, who have not always handled it well this tournament.

Defeat for Australia would probably mean a humiliating exit from this tournament. They cannot afford to lose. They handled the pressure well enough in their first Super Six match, against India, which they entered in the knowledge that they probably needed three victories out of three to reach the semi-finals. They will not expect to lose against Zimbabwe, but the latter's win over South Africa will warn them against any complacency.

Zimbabwe have several factors against them. After suffering more than their fair share of bad luck in previous tournaments, they have seen fortune even things out a little this time. They have only played at or near their best in one match this time, against South Africa in a match when the pressure was off them because they never believed they could either win the match or go through to the Super Sixes.

Now the pressure is on them again, and recent experience shows that they take while to adjust to new situations. The Super Six is certainly a new situation for them, and they clearly found the pressure difficult to handle against New Zealand, especially with the bat. They bowled and fielded well, though, and although New Zealand appeared to be in the stronger position when rain declared the match closed, victory was by no means a foregone conclusion and batting would not have been easy in the prevailing conditions. Another new situation for Zimbabwe is that this is their first-ever match at Lord's, and this may help to overawe them.

The two teams have met only twice since the last World Cup, at the Pepsi Triangular Series in India just over a year ago, when Australia won both matches by the narrow margins of 13 and 16 runs respectively. Altogether the teams have met on only 11 occasions, with Australia winning 10 against Zimbabwe's one - that famous first occasion when Zimbabwe won their first-ever World Cup match at Trent Bridge in 1983. None of the current players were in action then, although Zimbabwe coach Dave Houghton played in the winning side.

Zimbabwe's batsmen have not always handled the pressure well on this tour, and the likes of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne will make things difficult for them this time. Damien Fleming and Tom Moody have also performed well this tournament, but Australia have not yet found an effective fifth bowler. Until the coming of Paul Strang and Adam Huckle, most of Zimbabwe's batsmen were very weak against spin, and the performance of Shane Warne will be watched with interest. His battle with Andy Flower, left-handed and a fine player of spin, should be an intriguing contest.

Flower and Johnson both have tournament averages of over 30, while Grant Flower, Campbell and Goodwin have also passed 100 runs. Most of the others, however, have under-performed with the bat. In contrast, Australia have two Waughs, Bevan and Ponting with averages of over 35, with Lehmann and Gilchrist also having scored more than 100 runs. Zimbabwe's bowlers have also been less successful than their Australian counterparts, although Johnson and Streak both average below 25. Yet, perversely, Zimbabwe carry five points into this match against Australia's two.

Both teams will have to overcome their own pressures to play their best in this match. Australia, with their greater experience and their world-class bowlers, will probably handle it better than Zimbabwe, still trying to adjust to Super Six level. But theirs is the greater pressure, as defeat will give Zimbabwe a further chance, but scarcely Australia. Nobody should be taking this match for granted. Twenty-two players certainly won't.

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