Elton Chigumbura played a very responsible innings  © AFP
Elton Chigumbura played a very responsible innings © AFP

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

Aug 30, 2014

There were overwhelming odds stacked against Zimbabwe when Prosper Utseya joined Elton Chigumbura at 156 for seven. As they needed 54 more to win with only three wickets in hand, memories of the previous game against South Africa lingered — where Zimbabwe faltered after a good bowling performance. Utseya starred with the ball then, but the batsmen failed to convert it into a victory. This time, the off-spinner had to do it with the bat and what transpired was nothing short of a thriller.

Utseya’s application in the middle was stunning. Not known for his batting, Utseya showed great application and concentration to deal with a superior bowling side. He has four One-Day International (ODI) fifties behind him, but this was a different task. Australia are ruthless when they find an opportunity and he had to keep them out of the contest with his character. Ultimately, his persistence prevailed and gifted Zimbabwe their first ODI victory over the Australians in 31 years.

There was a need to stay in the middle and hand it over to Chigumbura. However, Utseya’s own aggression took pressure off Chigumbura and made the task a lot easier for the hosts. Clarke brought in the fielders and Utseya challenged them with some strokes over the top. That was a sign of fearlessness and confidence in the face of enormous pressure.

Having said that, Chigumbura may also have played his best innings in the ODI format. He started off by attacking the bowlers, using his feet and smashing it over the top. At the time, it seemed careless given the fact that Sean Williams had perished trying the second reverse-sweep. Yet, Chigumbura backed himself and continued to play his natural game. As wickets fell, he tempered it and re-assessed the situation. Deliveries were placed in the gaps and runs were taken quite easily.

In many ways, this partnership is a good lesson for Zimbabwe. Many times, they have shown promise, but haven’t won games when they could have. This partnership had everything in it and is a mark set for their teammates. In future, Zimbabwe can learn from this stand and try to apply the same approach in the long run.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)