Australia will be eager to get their campaign back on track when they take on Zimbabwe at Motera on February 21. The team has had a bad run in the warm up games, losing against India and South Africa. So the defending champions will need to up their game if they are to extend their streak of 29 undefeated World Cup games.
Zimbabwe too has had its its share of woes, losing their warm up games against South Africa and Ireland. The team has taken part in all World Cup editions since 1983 but has never reached the semifinal. In fact, they have been eliminated in first round most of the times. So the Africans will have a lot to play for when they take on Australia.
Australia will make little change, if any, in the squad that won the recently concluded ODI series against England. They have a strong batting line up led by Brad Haddin and Shane Watson as openers. Skipper Ricky Ponting will bat at number three with Michael Clarke, Cameron White and David Hussey mostly probarbly forming the middle order. All these batsmen are proven match winners and team Zimbabwe will need to do all they can to unsettle the Aussies earlier on in the innings.
As far as bowling is concerned, Brett Lee with his vast experience and the superb form he is in, will be a dangerous contender for any batting line up. So unless the Zimbabweans can use his pace to their advantage, they are in for a hard time in the middle.
For Zimbabwe, a lot will rest on experienced bat Brendon Taylor, who has been training with Brian Lala. Brendon is known to deal mainly in boundaries and if not stopped, he can inflict pain on any bowling attack. He will be assisted by Regis Chakabva, skipper Elton Chigumbura and Charles Coventry who form the middle order. If Taylor fails, Coventry is Zimbabwe's last hope to rescue his team from a bad start.
On the bowling front, Chris Mpofu and right-arm seamer Ed Rainsford will lead the attack for Zimbabwe before their spinners join the party later on the innings.
Motera has been criticized in the past for not favoring spinners but is perfect for a one day pitch. Test matches played at Motera have yielded more wickets to pace and seam. If this should be the case, then Brett Lee, John Hastings and Mitchell Johnson will be more than happy to have a go at the Zimbabwean batsmen. Mpofu and Rainsform on the other hand should do the work for Zimbabwe.
Players to watch
Australians have been unpredictable lately. Players expected to fire have failed but then new heroes have done the job for the team. However, looking at the pitch, Brett Lee and John Hastings should make life difficult for the Zimbabweans. But if Taylor and Coventry get going then Australia will have a game on their hands.
Australia and Zimbabwe have played against each other 27 times. Out of these, Zimbabwe has won just one match, way back in 1983. So Australia surely go in the match as favorites and should come out victorious unless fate has better plans for the Chigumbura boys.
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