The eighth wicket partnership of 187 runs between Sean Williams and Donald Tiripano wasn’t enough to save the second Test versus Afghanistan, but it showed that the Zimbabwe cricket team were not going to give in without a fight.
A 1-1 finish to the Test series is akin to a victory for Zimbabwe, given how they were playing in alien conditions, missing crucial players and had not played much cricket in the preceding months.
In recent years, they have become the team to beat among the lower-ranked sides, and have also bested some of the Test sides like Bangladesh, West Indies and Sri Lanka. The big win in the first Test adds to their credentials.
It also made the cricketing world aware that Zimbabwe players are ready to provide some exciting entertainment in the coming months. Though the current team is in a rebuilding phase, Zimbabwe have often produced great cricketers and teams in the past.
There have been quite a few occasions when the less-touted Chevrons have produced some extraordinary cricket on the world stage. Let us take a trip down memory lane to revisit some of those games.
We look at times when Zimbabwe set the world on fire
1. Australia vs Zimbabwe at Perth, 2001
Australia were the best team in the world by far that season. They had crushed the West Indies 5-0 in the Frank Worrell Trophy and had dominated the proceedings of the Carlton tri-series before this engagement.
This final encounter between Australia and Zimbabwe at Perth was pretty much a formality. Zimbabwe had won only one game in the entire tri-series and had not even come close to challenging Australia.
Australia batted first and posted a strong 302 on the back of Damien Martyn’s 144. During the chase, Grant Flower and Stuart Carlisle got the innings going with a decent partnership but the required run-rate always seemed to be an issue.
Zimbabwe needed 113 runs in the last 12 overs. That is when the two set batsmen begun going after the best bowlers in the world. Damien Fleming was slammed for a 13 in the 40th over, Brett Lee was smashed for three boundaries in the 43rd over and Nathan Bracken was hit for 23 runs in his final 2 overs.
The equation stood at 26 needed off 18 balls. Steve Waugh summoned his best bowler, Glenn McGrath. McGrath got Carlisle in a 2-run over which changed the game. The next over by Ian Harvey began with a six by Heath Streak but finished with successive wickets.
In the end, Zimbabwe needed 15 off the final over with Douglas Marillier up against Glenn McGrath. And Marillier nearly did it, producing two scoops against the premier pacer as they made 13 runs off the over.
They missed out on a win by two runs, but it was an exceptional effort against one of the greatest teams to ever play the game.
2. Australia vs Zimbabwe at Cape Town, 2007
Zimbabwe were lined up to face Australia in a Group B encounter in the inaugural ICC World Twenty20.
Australia had been on top of their game at that point as well. They hadn’t lost a Test since the Ashes 2005 and had won the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy and 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup. Needless to say, they were the overwhelming favourites going into the tournament.
Zimbabwe were a side which were constantly trying to build up after a cricket crisis which saw them hit nadir in 2004, when many top flight cricketers rebelled and left the game for good.
So, on one hand there was a young side featuring Brendan Taylor, Chamu Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Tatenda Taibu and Hamilton Masakadza, while on the other side were some of the biggest names in the game like Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Brett Lee, Andrew Symonds and Mike Hussey.
Australia won the toss and decided to bat, but were soon made to rue the decision. They could never get going against Elton Chigumbura and Gary Brent, with Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting all returning single figures. Some persistence from Brad Hodge and Andrew Symonds helped Australia reach a total of 138.
Zimbabwe began the chase with confidence as Vusimuzi Sibanda and Brendan Taylor got going. However, they suffered a middle-order collapse, and things looked precarious at 70 for 4. Brendan Taylor’s 60 however, ensured that Zimbabwe got home with four wickets in hand.
This was a massive win for Zimbabwe and also showcased that this new format gave enough opportunity for lower-ranked sides to match up against top flight teams.
3. South Africa vs. Zimbabwe at Chelmsford, 1999:
This is perhaps the greatest World Cup win in Zimbabwean cricket history. The South African team of the 90s is often considered one of the greatest One Day units of all time.
This team comprising Herschelle Gibbs, Daryl Cullinan, Allan Donald, Jacques Kallis, Hansie Cronje, Shaun Pollock and Mark Boucher, evoked an aura of invulnerability and impregnability.
Though, Zimbabwe had defeated India in an exciting encounter at Leicester a few days back, toppling South Africa should have been a task too big for them to complete.
However, on the back of a 76 by Neil Johnson, Zimbabwe were able to achieve a decent total of 233. He then returned to join forces with Heath Streak and rip open the South African top and middle order. Gary Kirsten and Jacques Kallis scored a duck, while Hansie Cronje and Jonty Rhodes got out for 4 and 5, respectively.
It was only some decent batting by Shaun Pollock and exceptional hitting by Lance Klusener which kept South Africa alive in the game, but in the end, Zimbabwe won by a comfortable margin of 48 runs.
Next year at Durban, Zimbabwe defeated South Africa yet again by a close margin of 2 wickets, as if to prove that this World Cup victory was not a one-off event.
4. Pakistan vs Zimbabwe at Peshawar, 1998
Despite possessing an excellent side in the late 90s, Pakistan often suffered humiliation at home against visiting teams. Sri Lanka defeated them in 1995 and 2000, South Africa won in 1997 and Australia in 1998. Even New Zealand, who were often bullied by Pakistan in the 90s, managed to draw a series in the country in 1996.
Still, it would have been beyond anyone’s imagination to see Zimbabwe winning a Test in Pakistan.
At Peshawar, Pakistan got off to a decent total of 296 in the first innings on the back of Ijaz Ahmed’s 87. Zimbabwe could muster only 238, but their innings included Neil Johnson’s 107 at the Strike-rate of 91. At one stage, it looked like Zimbabwe would fold up for an even lower total, but Johnson ensured some respectability to their score.
Then Henry Olonga and Pommie Mbangwa turned the tables on Pakistan and got four and three wickets respectively. Pakistan were shot out for 103 and Zimbabwe chased down their target comfortably to win the game by 7 wickets.
They would go on to win the series as well.