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Australia have always been one of the dominant forces in world cricket. The air of invulnerability may be fading in recent years, but their reputation always precedes them. As a result, when they fail — and they do not fail too often — it seems like a bolt from the blue. Shiamak Unwalla recounts four occasions when the mighty Aussies were floored by minnows.
Beating Australia is a big deal for the best of sides. When a minnow beats them, it is cause for national celebration. Since the conception of limited overs cricket — One-Day Internationals (ODIs) were initially 60 overs long per innings — till the present-day Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is), Australia have been by and large a tough opponent for most teams. Against the weaker sides, they have dominated virtually every encounter. Except for four magical occasions when the underdogs came out on top:
1. Australia vs Zimbabwe, Prudential World Cup 1983, ODI (60 overs): The very first time Zimbabwe clashed with Australia in an ODI was in the 1983 World Cup. Kim Hughes won the toss and asked Zimbabwe to bat first. After a 55-run opening alliance between Ali Omarshah and Grant Paterson, Zimbabwe were reduced to 94 for five before Duncan Fletcher (69 not out) played a terrific rearguard innings to guide Zimbabwe to a decent score of 239 for six.
In reply, Australia started well but kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Kepler Wessels hit a composed 76 and Rodney Marsh hammered a 42-ball unbeaten 50, but the match belonged to Fletcher, who starred with the ball as well to end with figures of four for 42 as Australia fell short by just 13 runs.
2. Australia vs Bangladesh, NatWest Series 2005, ODI: In what was possibly Bangladesh’s best ever ODI victory, Ricky Ponting won the toss and elected to bat first. Fifties from Damien Martyn (77) and Michael Clarke (54) as well as contributions from Matthew Hayden (37), Mike Hussey (31 not out) and Simon Katich (36 not out) helped Australia post a competent 249 for five.
Bangladesh started slowly in their chase, with both openers seeing off the new ball without taking too many risks. However, at 72 for three in the 21st over, it looked like Bangladesh were batting themselves out of contention. However, Mohammad Ashraful came up with one of the greatest knocks ever played by a Bangladesh batsman when he hit a stroke-filled 101-ball 100 against the likes of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz and Brad Hogg. Habibul Bashar’s crucial 47 helped the young Ashraful on his way, as Bangladesh managed to pull off one of the biggest upsets in modern history.
3. Australia vs Zimbabwe, ICC World T20 2007, T20I: Australia were accused of not taking the T20 format seriously. After the embarrassment of this game, perhaps they were shaken into a furore. Australia batted first after winning the toss, but never quite got going. Andrew Symonds (33) and Brad Hodge (35 not out) boosted the ODI world champions to a moderate 138 after Elton Chigumbura’s inspired spell of three for 20.
Zimbabwe galloped away in their reply, with Vusi Sibanda smashing a 16-ball 23 to give Zimbabwe an ideal platform. Australia kept pegging away the wickets though, to reduce Zimbabwe to 70 for four. But there was one man standing in their way; Brendan Taylor was in no mood to let the Aussies get the better of him, as he hammered an unbeaten 60 off 45 deliveries to lead Zimbabwe to a memorable win.
4. Zimbabwe vs Australia, Zimbabwe Triangular Series 2014, ODI: It seems that Zimbabwe plays their best cricket against Australia; three of the four upsets suffered by the Australian juggernauts have been at the hands of the African nation. After Prosper Utseya’s hat-trick and fifer in the previous match against South Africa had got Zimbabwe close to a victory, their batsmen faltered while chasing a paltry total. In their next game, Australia batted first after winning the toss, but crashed and burned against the Zimbabwean spinners, losing as many as six of their nine wickets to the combined spin bowling of John Nyumbu, Utseya, Sean Williams, and Malcolm Waller. Australia hobbled to 209 for nine on the back of a battling 68 not out from skipper Michael Clarke.
In reply, Sikandar Raza (22) started confidently for Zimbabwe before Brendan Taylor (32) added impetus in the middle overs. Nathan Lyon (4/44) then all but took the game away from the hosts with an inspired spell of masterful off-spin. At 156 for seven, it seemed like only a matter of time before Australia wrapped things up. However, skipper Elton Chigumbura (52 not out) and Utseya (30 not out) had other ideas; the pair added an unbeaten 55 runs to take Zimbabwe home with two overs to spare. Zimbabwe had triumphed over Australia in an ODI for the first time in 31 years, and in the process might have inspired a generation of budding cricketers.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)
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