Australia 100 for 2 (Smith 47*, Carey 26*, Ngarava 2-16) beat Zimbabwe 96 (Williams 29, Zampa 3-21, Starc 3-24) by eight wickets
On a pitch that offered considerable help to the fast bowlers, Starc claimed 3 for 15 in his first five-over spell, and would have become the fastest to 200 wickets had Glenn Maxwell held a sharp chance at backward point offered by Luke Jongwe late in the innings. However, he still has two matches in hand to beat Saqlain Mushtaq’s mark of 104 games.
After a few early wides, Starc found the target with a pinpoint yorker to remove Innocent Kaia and then swung one back into Wessly Madhevere to remove the top-scorer from the previous match for a duck. His third wicket was not quite a classic though, as Tadiwanashe Marumani flicked a ball off his pads straight to square leg
At the other end, Josh Hazlewood and been miserly with the new ball, and found significant movement off the seam to cause a host of problems which continued when he changed ends to replace Starc. Briefly, he was put under pressure when Sikandar Raza, who had been on 7 off 33 balls until then, pulled him through midwicket and then drove the next ball over long-off for a spectacular six.
But two deliveries later, he top-edged a short delivery to deep square leg to remove one of Zimbabwe’s best hope of making it a contest. Speaking the day before the game, coach David Houghton had said he wanted his side to stitch together runs throughout the order, having had various parts of it perform in different matches; but this would not be the day for it.
Batters continued to struggle to find the balance between attack and defence, as captain Regis Chakabva followed a couple of handsome shots down the ground by picking out mid-off against Ashton Agar, who had been recalled in place of the injured Mitchell Marsh.
Cameron Green, who took a five-wicket haul in the opening match, was the sixth bowler used, but it only took him three deliveries to make an impression with a lifting ball which found Tony Munyonga’s outside edge.
There appeared to be a Snicko failure when Brad Evans reviewed his lbw, but replays suggested he hadn’t hit it anyway.
In the run chase, David Warner was in the mood to get things done quickly but carved down to deep third where Brad Evans held an excellent catch running in. Two balls later, Finch fenced outside off stump and was held at the second attempt by Raza at first slip to once again leave the focus on the captain’s form.
There were a few uneasy moments for Smith and Alex Carey as the ball continued to move for the seamers, but the target was quickly hunted down. Smith played one of the shots of the day when he carved a six over deep point and continued to pepper the boundary, but couldn’t take advantage of a free hit from what became the last ball of the game to reach fifty, as it scuttled for four byes.
Those attending the final match of the series on Saturday will hope for a better contest, which may require Australia to bat first if they win the toss.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
(With Inputs from ESPN)
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