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Australia A Complete Unbeaten Tour

The honours may have been even at the end of day one, but an exceptional partnership between Aussie openers Aaron Finch and David Warner on day two put the game well beyond Zimbabwe XI's reach - the home side started day two on 250/5, but an opening blitz by Peter Siddle, who took four wickets in the session, saw the remaining men skittled for an additional 50 runs, leaving Zimbabwe all out for 300. Warner and Finch then spent the rest of the day at the crease, scoring 282 before the close of play in an exceptional stand that Zimbabwe's bowlers were unable to break.

Day three saw the pendulum swing again as Zim's bowlers, lead by Ray Price, finally got the breakthrough they needed with the wicket of Finch just 3 overs into the day. From there, the remainder of the Aussies put up little in the way of resistance, bar Warner moving on to a hugely impressive double-ton, and a 61-run partnership for the final wicket between Jason Krejza and Mitchell Starc. They finished on 498, a lead of 198 runs - and based on their performances in other matches of the series, Zimbabwe XI should have at least been able to make the Aussies bat again on day four.

It wasn't to be, though, as the old bugbear of the batting collapse raised its ugly head again to blight the Zimbabwean innings. The opening pair of Mawoyo and Sibanda fell early, for 4 and 1 respectively; Elton Chigumbura claimed an unwanted pair when caught without scoring; and only Taylor (56) and Ray Price (39) put up anything that could be considered 'resistance' with the bat, as Zim XI were bowled out for 180, handing Australia A an innings win.

A disappointing end, then, to a series in which Zimbabwe showed some promise ahead of their now-imminent Test return - and there's now only a 2-day tour match against the visiting Bangladeshis (on 1-2 August) for them to regain some form ahead of that encounter. Full scorecard below the cut.
Zimbabwe XI 300 (107 overs; Taylor 85, Siddle 4/45) & 180 (64.2 overs; Taylor 56, Marsh 2/13), Australia A 498 (137.5 overs; Warner 211, Price 4/116). Australia A win by an innings and 18 runs.

All Honors Even At The Close Of Day One

Zimbabwe XI gave a more positive performance against Australia 'A' on thefirst of the second four day match being played at Harare Sports club on Thursday. The home side was 250/5 at stumps. This is the second and final match between the two sides; Australia won the first match by seven wickets at the Country Club on Monday.

Four major changes were made in the Zimbabwean starting line-up. Captain Brendan Taylor and Raymond Price returned from injuries which ruled them out of the first match while fast bowlers Kyle Jarvis and Chris Mpofu were the other two additions. The four came in to replace Malcolm Waller, Keagan Meth, Tendai Chatara and Njabulo Ncube.

The opening pair got off to a slow start after Zimbabwe had won the toss and chosen to bat. Vusi Sibanda (33), though the major contributor in the 46 run partnership, was the first to depart after being bowled by Mitchell Starc. Tino Mawoyo was caught in the 27th over after laboring long and hard for an innings of 24 from 78 balls. By lunch Zimbabwe was 103/2 with Brendan Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza at the crease.

It was a very solid and the typical Taylor and Masakadza partnership. The pair added 96 runs for the third wicket, with Masakadza scoring a fluent 64 off 141 balls in a concrete innings which featured 11 boundaries. Captain Brendan Taylor clung on, partnering Craig Ervine (34) and looked set to finish being there at the close of play but I was not to be as Luke Butterworth trapped him leg before wicket with the new ball for 85 from 176

Butterworth struck again, this time inducing the outside edge of Craig Ervine. Regis Chakabva and night watchman Raymond Price are yet to get off the mark as the home side will be hoping to set a competitive total in their first innings. Butterworth was the pick of the Australian bowlers with figures of two for 28 in 13 overs which included seven maidens.

Play recommences at 09:30 tomorrow.
[Report courtesy ZC]

Australia A win First 4-Day Match

A feisty ton by Elton Chigumbura helped Zimbabwe Xi reach the final session but was incapable of rescuing the team from a seven-wicket loss against Australia ‘A’ on the last day of the four day match held at the Country Club in Harare. Zimbabwe XI trailed the Australians by 75 runs at the close of play on the third day, with Keegan Meth and Hamilton Masakadza at the crease.

Zimbabwe scored 230 in the first innings after electing to bat first. The home skipper Vusi Sibanda led from the front with a patient 91 off 214 balls and his opening partner Tinotenda Mawoyo (39) helped see off the vicious Australian quick bowlers. In reply Philip Hughes scored 125 runs from 204 balls and his captain Tim Paine (98) narrowly missing a century in Australia’s 439 run offset, giving them a 209 run first innings. Brian Vitori was the pick of the Zimbabwean bowlers with figures of four for 86 in 22 overs.

Once again the openers handled the new ball with due diligence, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle gave no room for the pair to score, but they managed to form a 64 run opening stand. Hamilton Masakadza (91) and Elton Chigumbura put up a fight going at 5.18 an over for their 102 run partnership for the sixth wicket. Chigumbura was stumped after making a run-a-ball 108 featuring 14 boundaries and four sixes. Zimbabwe had a 137 run lead after being bowled out for 346.

David Warner almost replayed his quick fire innings during the two-day warm-up match in Kwekwe when he cracked two sixes and nine boundaries for his 82 off 57 deliveries. Australia comfortably scored 138 runs in 26.4 overs. Phil Hughes first innings knock was the mainstay of Zimbabwe’s downfall earned him the man-of-the-match award. Zimbabwe XI will play the last four-day match against Australia ‘A’ at Harare Sports club on Thursday. Full scorecard below the cut.
Zimbabwe XI 230 (101.5 overs; Sibanda 91, Krejza 3/24) & 346 (103.1 overs; Chigumbura 108, Copeland 3/64), Australia A 439 (115 overs; Hughes 125, Vitori 4/86) & 138/3 (26.4 overs; Warner 82, Chigumbura 1/25). Australia A win by 7 wickets.
[Match report via ZC]

Zimbabwe XI Draw Tour Match with Australia A

This match took place in Kwekwe earlier in the week. On paper, a draw is nothing to be sneezed at - and batting out a full 90 innings on the second day probably counts as a worthwhile achievement - but with Australia A posting 427 from 90 overs compared to Zimbabwe XI's 306, it's clear who was on top. Some good signs from Zim's batting, though, with Regis Chakabva continuing to be fairly reliable, Forster Mutizwa seizing his chance to shine with a 70-ball 67, and Elton Chigumbura finaly showing some signs of form - just in time for the upcoming Test against Bangladesh - with 95 & the best of Zim's bowling figures as well (1/51). Full scorecard below the cut.
Australia A 427/4 decl (90 overs; Ferguson 156*, Chigumbura 1/51), Zimbabwe XI 306/9 (90 overs; Chigumbura 95, Beer 6/109). Match drawn.

Australia A Seal Final Spot

Australia 'A' thumped Zimbabwe XI by four wickets with 58 balls to spare in a Coca Cola Challenge Triangular Series encounter at Harare Sports Club yesterday to seal their place into Friday's final. Zimbabwe XI, who are yet to win a match in this series, won the toss for the first time in the series and elected to bat first.

The move backfired as they were bowled out for a paltry 159 runs in 48.2 overs with wicketkeeper batsman, Regis Chakabva's 45 off 104 balls the only meaningful contribution. Left arm seamer Mitchell Starc and off spinner Nathan Lyon were impressive with the ball, both grabbing three wickets apiece as Zimbabwe XI failed to construct any meaningful partnerships.

Australia 'A' vice captain Calum Ferguson top scored for the visitors with 57 runs from 69 balls in a knock that included four boundaries and a six. Together with opening batsman Aaron Finch, ensured that they team reached their target comfortably as they took on Zimbabwe XI's opening bowlers Christopher Mpofu and Keegan Meth in the mandatory Powerplay.

The introduction of spin saw Zimbabwe XI's fortunes briefly being revived as off spinner Prosper Utseya took a wicket and a run out in the 15th over. He would later finish with impressive bowling figures of three wickets for 27 runs in 10 overs. Meth and part-time bowler Brendan Taylor and Meth chipped in with a wicket apiece in the mid-overs but by then the Australians where now way over the required run rate.

Ferguson and Trent Copeland, who was unbeaten on nine runs then easily, took their side over the finishing line. Zimbabwe will now hope that South Africa 'A' lose to the Aussies on Tuesday and hope that they convincingly beat their northern neighbours on Wednesday for them to book a place into Friday's final. Full scorecard below the cut.
Zimbabwe XI 159 (48.2 overs; Chakabva 45, Starc 3/34) ,Australia A 162/6 (40.2 overs; Ferguson 57*, Utseya 3/27). Australia A win by 4 wickets.
[Match report via ZC]

Batting Collapse Hands Australia A Victory

Zimbabwe XI got off to a flyer in the opening match of their tri-series against South Africa A and Australia A, with the Aussies reaching a sub-par 232/8 from 50 overs after winning the toss and opting to bat. On a rare day where the spinner failed to exert their usual choke-hold (Ray Price went wicketless in his 10 overs, conceding 52), Chris Mpofu led the attack, taking 3/30 from his spell, while Keegan Meth, Elton Chigumbura, Prosper Utseya and Hamilton Masakadza each chipped in with one apiece. Superb fielding from Vusi Sibanda also helped account for the wicket of Steve O'Keefe, run out for just 2.

Nick Maddinson (63) and Callum Ferguson (52) had put on a good show for Aussies near the top of the order, but with few of their team-mates able to push on - Tim Paine's unbeaten 37 was the only other score of note - it was the Aussies who were under pressure for most of the innings. And who would have expected that.

That left Zimbabwe requiring 233 to win at 4.66/over from their innings - but once again, our batting inconsistency cost us once again. The top three of Taylor (17), Sibanda (37) and Masakadza (57) put in decent performances - it seems that a spell on the sidelines has done a world of good for Vusi and Hamilton, at least - but from there on down the only word is "woeful", as not one of the remaining players reached double figures. Their downfall was in no small part down to the combined efforts of Nathan Lyon (4/22 from 7 overs) and John Hastings (3/22 from 9), who had the measure of their opponents and simply took us to pieces.

After the early promise that our bowlers gave us, then, this can only count as a disappointing result - and given that it's the same old problem, all over again, has to raise questions about just what's being done to work around our batting fragility. Full scorecard below the cut; tomorrow's match is South Africa A v Australia A.
Australia A 232/8 (50 overs; Maddinson 63, Mpofu 3/30), Zimbabwe XI 142 (39 overs; Masakadza 57, Lyon 4/22). Australia A win by 90 runs.

ICC Denies Investigation into Aus v Zim Match

You may recall we reported a while back that the Times of India had reported that Zimbabwe's World Cup opener against Australia had been the subject of an investigation by the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit, on the basis of Australia's low run-rate. The ICC made no comment at the time, but the ToI repeated the allegation in an article (now withdrawn) posted yesterday, which did draw a response in the form of a statement from ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat, carried on the ICC website:

Following the publication of a false article by the Times of India correspondent Mr Prashant Dayal in the Ahmedabad edition on Tuesday, ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat has made the following statement.

"An article by Mr Dayal in yesterday's newspaper made a number of claims about an ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 match between Australia and Zimbabwe that can only be described as fictional.

"We do not comment on the activities of the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) and for good reason. However, after several misleading and downright false stories appearing in recent weeks it is time for us to show our displeasure and expose those responsible for affecting the integrity of the media.

"It is also patently false of the reporter to claim that the ICC ever suggested to it that the match was corrupted. The ICC confirms that, in terms of its policy, at no stage did anyone from the ICC speak to the journalist on this topic.

"To uphold the integrity of the media I expect Mr Dayal and the Times of India to retract such baseless stories."

The Times of India have since issued a retraction (in their paper edition, not on their website but quoted on the ICC website):

"The Times Of India carried a story on its website on March 22 alleging that the match between Australia and Zimbabwe had been spot-fixed. We apologise to Australia, Cricket Australia and the ICC for any embarrassment caused by this. We also accept that at no stage has the ICC ever confirmed or suggested the match was fixed. The story has since been taken off the website."

Wot, no apology for Zimbabwe?

Australia Name Provisional Squad for 'A' Tour of Zim

Cricket Australia have named a provisional 24-player squad for their upcoming 'A' tour of Zimbabwe, which will comprise a one-day tri-series against Zimbabwe XI and South Africa 'A', followed by 2 four-day matches. The squad will be trimmed in May. National Talent Manager Greg Chappell commented on the squad:

"The NSP has today announced a 24-player provisional squad for the mid-year tour to Zimbabwe. We have given the provisional squad advanced notice for this tour to allow them sufficient time to prepare for the series pending selection in the final squad.

"The Australia A program in recent years has played a big role in readying athletes for the rigors of international cricket, with players such as Tim Paine, Callum Ferguson, Cam White and Mitchell Starc all coming in to the Australian setup at varying times over the last couple of years and having an impact.

"This group is a cross section of the best young players in the country. Some of them have already had a taste of international cricket and show signs of being among those that will be the backbone of our teams in the future, while the others have shown enough in domestic cricket to suggest that they are the type of cricketer that we will need to be able to challenge India, South Africa, England and Sri Lanka for supremacy in the next few years.

"This tour is an important one as they continue their development and will give all players selected in the final squad in May an opportunity to push for higher honours.

"With the new World Test Championship and the new ODI ranking periods beginning straight after the ICC Cricket World Cup and with tours to Sri Lanka and South Africa later this year and New Zealand and India touring Australia next summer, it will be a great opportunity for these young players to show their skills and put their name forward to be part of this challenging period for Australian cricket."

The full squad is: George Bailey, Michael Beer, Luke Butterworth, Trent Copeland, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Patrick Cummins, James Faulkner, Callum Ferguson, Aaron Finch, Peter George, Jon Holland, Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Nicolas Maddinson, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Stephen O'Keefe, Tim Paine, James Pattinson, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner

This series will be the curtain-raiser to a very busy international schedule for Zimbabwe this year and, after the senior side's performance in the World Cup, may well be used to identify a few players from the lower tiers of the game who may be given a chance to step up. It should be well worth watching.
Cricket Australia - Provisional Aus A squad named for Zimbabwe

Full 2011 International Fixtures List

Just done a monster update to our Fixtures page, with full schedules for the following series:

Triangular 'A' Series (Australia 'A', South Africa 'A', Zimbabwe XI)
Australia 'A' in Zimbabwe
Bangladesh in Zimbabwe
Pakistan in Zimbabwe
New Zealand in Zimbabwe

That list includes three Test matches - 2 in Bulawayo, 1 in Harare - and I have to say it felt good typing them in.

Australia v Zimbabwe Match Investigated Over Spot-Fixing Concerns

The Times of India reports that the Cricket World Cup match between Australia and Zimbabwe has been investigated by the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit, after the slow scoring rate of Aussie openers Shane Watson and Brad Haddin raised concerns. Responding to the reports, Aussie coach Tim Nielsen stated that his players were simply responding to the match conditions:

Everyone had this perception that they went slowly. But if Zimbabwe were going to be competitive against us, they needed to take early wickets with their spinners. We're playing the way we think is the right way to play.

The investigation seems to be a (healthy?) dose of paranoia on the part of the ICC, and there's no indication at the moment that anything untoward was going on. I have to say, though, that the unspoken implication of "Zimbabwe were being competitive, that can't be right" does a grave disservice to the Zimbabwean spin attack, who can tie any team in knots on their day. Spot fixing has, however, been in the spotlight since several Pakistani players were caught engaging in the practice during their tour of England last year.
Time of India - ICC probes Australia-Zimbabwe World Cup match

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