On April 25, 2004, Zimbabwe got into the history books by creating a world record they could have done without. Jaideep Vaidya revisits that day in Harare when a second-string Zimbabwean cricket team collapsed like dominoes to Sri Lanka for the lowest ever total.
It was a contest that should not have happened, in the sense it was not originally scheduled to take place. England were to tour Zimbabwe in April-May 2004, but stiff political resistance against the team flying to the Robert Mugabe-led country barred the team from making the trip. Finally, the Sri Lankan cricket board agreed to fill in and came with a full-strength team.
Zimbabwe were themselves without 15 main players, who were demanding the reinstatement of Heath Streak as captain (in place of 20-year-old Tatenda Taibu), changes to the national selection panel and a suitable system for solving player grievances.
After winning the first two One-Day Internationals (ODIs) comfortably, Sri Lanka made three changes to their side for the third at Harare. Spinner Rangana Herath and pacer Farveez Maharoof made their debuts, while Muttiah Muralitharan and Upul Chandana were rested. Dilhara Fernando also came in for Nuwan Zoysa. Zimbabwe, however, fielded an unchanged team aside from a tweak in the batting order as Vusi Sibanda was dropped down and Stuart Matsikenyeri promoted to open.
Sri Lanka won the toss and decided to make the most of a green pitch at the Harare Sports Club by bowling first. However, even they would not have anticipated what was to happen in the next hour or so.
Zimbabwe’s new opening pair, Stuart Matsikenyeri and Brendan Taylor, recorded the team’s best opening stand of the series — all of five runs — before a mix-up saw Matsikenyeri run out by a direct hit from Herath. Taylor and Dion Ebrahim then added 13 more runs without further damage before the latter was dismissed by Dilhara Fernando for seven — which turned out to be the highest individual score along with the extras.
None of the batsmen managed to get past double figures and as many as four got ducks. Chaminda Vaas went past 300 ODI wickets while recording figures of four for 11, Maharoof took three for three and Fernando scalped two for 18, as Zimbabwe collapsed from 18 for one to 35 all-out. To add to the ignominy, it was the lowest total ever recorded in an ODI and just one run short of the previous record — 36 by Canada against the Lankans again in the 2003 World Cup.
The Zimbabweans put up some fight while defending their sorry total. Douglas Hondo and Tinashe Panyangara tested the Lankan openers with some probing fast bowling, before Russel Arnold finally gave way to make it 23 for one. But it was too little too late as Sanath Jayantha finished it off with a boundary through the covers and six over fine leg off successive deliveries.
Zimbabwe 35 all-out in 18 overs (Dion Ebrahim 7; Chaminda Vaas 4 for 11, Farveez Maharoof 3 for 3) lost to Sri Lanka 40 for 1 in 9.2 overs (Sanath Jayantha 28*; Douglas Hondo 1 for 11) by 9 wickets.
(Jaideep Vaidya is a multiple sports buff and a writer at CricketCountry. He has a B.E. in Electronics Engineering, but that isn’t fooling anybody. He started writing on sports during his engineering course and fell in love with it. The best day of his life came on April 24, 1998, when he witnessed birthday boy Sachin Tendulkar pummel a Shane Warne-speared Aussie attack from the stands during the Sharjah Cup Final. A diehard Manchester United fan, you can follow him on Twitter @jaideepvaidya. He also writes a sports blog - The Mullygrubber )