This series in Townsville marks the end of a lot of long stretches. It’s 634 days since Australia’s men played an ODI on home soil
; 14 years since a winter series in northern Australia; seven years since Zimbabwe last visited the country and 18 since their last bilateral series here.
These games were first meant to take place in 2020, but the impact of Covid-19 pushed them back. It’s fair to say some wondered if they would ever take place. While Cricket Australia is doing as they should, it is also part of a wider revamp of their image as being more aware of their wider responsibilities to the game. Zimbabwe Cricket even tested the waters about a one-off Test being tagged on although it was, sadly, only ever a pipe dream.
It has been a swift turnaround for Zimbabwe from the end of the India series. They have had just two training sessions in Townsville since arriving after a long journey from Harare via Dubai and Brisbane. While they have plenty of recent ODI cricket under their belts, it is precious little time to acclimatise, or even shake off jetlag. But they have nothing to lose and if they can channel the spirit of the final match against India
, then Australia will need to be on their guard.
This is Australia’s first time back together since the Sri Lanka tour in June-July, although some of the players have been at the Hundred. The last time they had an ODI at home was in early December 2020 against India. The immediate white-ball aim is defending the T20 World Cup title, but the ODI World Cup, which is scheduled for next October, is close enough to focus somewhat. Not least because it’s close to a full-strength side, so tactics and game plans can be worked on.
is the key name missing, given time to get his body ready for the T20 World Cup and then a run of nine Tests through to March which will decide Australia’s World Test Championship fate. Travis Head
, who is on paternity, is the other name who might have been here, but who he could force out of the batting order is an interesting debate.
Even with their overall lack of games in the format during the pandemic, and the challenges of rest and rotation of key quicks, there are probably not massive holes to fill in Australia’s side for the ODI World Cup. But it’s worth noting the last time these two sides met in an ODI, back in 2014, Zimbabwe were the winners
. A repeat here would be a huge surprise, but it would be a fantastic story.
Australia WLLLW (last five completed ODIs, most recent first)
It will be fascinating to watch Cameron Green
‘s development as a one-day cricketer. Everything suggests he’ll be hugely successful at it. In this side, he is being picked as a third fast bowler and the eighth batting option, giving Australia a deep order. Glenn Maxwell is locked at No. 7, a role he has had huge success at, but in reality, Australia’s allrounders could bat in any position. In time, Green will surely find himself higher up.
He’s done it against Bangladesh. He’s done it against India. Now can Sikandar Raza
do it against Australia? He is one of the form players in the world at the moment after three centuries in his last six ODIs. “We look up to him a lot and hope he’ll continue to do so,” captain Regis Chakabva said. Keep an eye out for Brad Evans, too, after he took 5 for 54 in their last match against India.
Marnus Labuschagne has been left out with Australia continuing their allrounder-heavy approach. It is the first time since 2020 that they have had all their batting options to pick from and have reverted to Steven Smith
at No. 3.
Australia: 1 Aaron Finch (capt), 2 David Warner, 3 Steven Smith, 4 Alex Carey (wk), 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Glenn Maxwell, 8 Cameron Green, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Fast bowler Blessing Muzarabani
is back in the squad after injury and could come in for Victor Nyauchi or Richard Ngarava from the side that played the last game against India. The other question is whether Zimbabwe want to try and squeeze in another spinner.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Takudzwanashe Kaitano, 2 Innocent Kaia, 3 Sean Williams, 4 Tony Munyonga, 5 Sikandar Raza, 6 Regis Chakabva (capt & wk), 7 Ryan Burl, 8 Luke Jongwe, 9 Brad Evans, 10 Richard Ngarava, 11 Victor Nyauchi/Blessing Muzarabani
With play starting at 9.40am local time there is the expectation that there could be some early assistance for the quicks but after that, it should be good for batting. It’s forecast to be a cloudy day but should stay dry. There are no international standard floodlights at the ground.
“There’ll be a bit of mixing and matching of the structure, whether we go with two spinners and two quicks and lessen the load on the allrounders, we’ll see.”
Aaron Finch said Australia may tinker with the balance of the side over these six games against Zimbabwe and New Zealand
“It obviously gave us a lot of confidence. We’ve been speaking a lot before that series, just in terms of how competitive we want to be and the last game was pretty close to what we want to be doing.”
Regis Chakabva on building on from the performance in the last game against India