Zimbabwe – 200 all out in 47.3 overs (Wessly Madhevere 72, Tadiwanashe Marumani 45, Regis Chakabva 31; Cameron Green 5/33, Adam Zampa 3/57, Mitchell Marsh 1/22)
Australia – 201-5 in 33.3 overs (David Warner 57, Steven Smith 48*, Glenn Maxwell 32*; Ryan Burl 3/60, Richard Ngarava 1/26, Sikandar Raza 1/45)
Australia won by five wickets
In spite of fine innings from Wessly Madhevere and Tadiwanashe Marumani, who both recorded their highest one-day international scores, Zimbabwe went down to Australia by five wickets in their first match played on Sunday at Riverway Stadium in Townsville.
It was a fair performance by the tourists who apart from having a very brief time to acclimatise also had to cope with the absence of Sean Williams due to an arm injury sustained during training.
They lost the toss and were put in to bat by the hosts, who no doubt expected their bowlers to get some assistance from the conditions.
The pitch indeed gave them some movement and the bounce was uneven at times, but the first three Zimbabwe batters handled the situation very well.
The opening partnership of Innocent Kaia and Marumani put on 42 runs together, and the first wicket did not fall until the 11th over, when Kaia, having seen off the opening bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, hit a low return catch to Mitchell Marsh for 17.
There followed a partnership of 45 in 10 overs for the second wicket, as Madhevere joined Marumani and the runs continued to flow.
Marumani looked to be heading for his first ODI fifty, but with his score on 45 and the total 87, he attempted a leg-side hit across a straight ball from the leg-spinner Adam Zampa and was bowled.
Tony Munyonga (7) tried to play an attacking game, but skyed a big hit against Zampa that was brilliantly caught by Steve Smith running back from mid-off – 104 for three.
Sikandar Raza’s recent great deeds have gone before him to Australia, and no doubt there was relief on their part when he was dismissed for five after facing 24 balls, attempting to pull Cameron Green for six, but hitting a catch to deep square leg – 122 for four in the 32nd over.
There followed the highest partnership of the innings, as the captain Regis Chakabva joined Madhevere and the two of them defied the bowling to put on 63 together in just over 11 overs.
Madhevere was going very well and he reached his fifty off 67 balls and looked good for more.
After 40 overs Zimbabwe had reached an impressive 167 for four wickets and looked set for a good total after the final 10 overs.
Three overs later, however, it all began to go wrong as Madhevere miscued a googly from Zampa and chipped the ball back for a return catch.
He had made an excellent 72 off 139 balls, with four fours, and Zimbabwe were 185 for five.
In the 45th over Chakabva, having crafted 31 off 33 balls, slogged a ball from Green and skyed a catch, followed three balls later by Ryan Burl (2), who sliced a catch to deep third man.
Green enjoyed another double strike in his next over, as Luke Jongwe (3) holed out to deep midwicket and two balls later Brad Evans (5) did the same.
Green had taken four wickets in eight balls and Zimbabwe were now 198 for nine.
The last man, Victor Nyauchi, scored two to bring up the 200 before being bowled by Starc, and the innings ended with 15 balls unused and Richard Ngarava not out without scoring.
The last six wickets had fallen for only 15 runs in seven overs.
Green had the best figures with his pace bowling of five wickets for 33 off nine overs, while Zampa bowled his 10 to take three wickets for 57.
For Australia, a target of 201 was scarcely testing.
Madhevere was given the first over with his off-breaks, and it cost nine runs, the batters being the renowned big hitters Aaron Finch and David Warner.
They moved swiftly to 43, but in the eighth over Finch went for 15, chopping a ball from Ngarava on to his stumps.
Ngarava was bowling superbly, and both Warner and Smith had a narrow escape or two, with Warner surviving a difficult chance at backward point and an appeal for a catch at the wicket for which he actually started to walk off the field, only to be surprisingly reprieved by the umpires.
Finally, Warner was bowled by a good ball from Raza for 57 off 66 balls as he tried to heave it to leg – 108 for two in the 23rd over.
Alex Carey did not last long, nicely caught at long-on by Nyauchi off Burl’s bowling for 10 – 128 for three in the 26th over.
The big-hitting Marcus Stoinis went for 19 off 14 balls, as he top-edged a sweep off Burl that was held by Raza running back from slip, and three balls later Marsh (2) was well caught off the same bowler.
Australia were now 155 for five wickets and Zimbabwe appeared at this stage to have a slight chance of an upset victory.
However, Smith was playing his usual steady innings and Glenn Maxwell took on the bowlers from the first ball, which he slogged over mid-on for four.
The match only lasted another four overs, as in Burl’s next over Maxwell hit him for six and two fours off successive balls.
And when Ngarava replaced Burl, Maxwell smashed two successive sixes over square leg to end the match in a hurry.
Maxwell finished with 32 not out off only nine balls (three sixes, three fours), while Smith had an unbeaten 48 from 80 balls.
However, Green was the man to win the player of the match award for his fine bowling.
Ngarava had been Zimbabwe’s best bowler until Maxwell’s two sixes, which was not reflected in his figures of one for 26 off 5.3 overs.
Burl bowled with more success, but he paid for his three wickets with 60 runs in seven overs.
The second match in the series of three takes place at the same venue on Wednesday, 31 August.