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Zimbabwe desperate for elusive victory

Zimbabwe, winless in six outings and out of contention for a berth in the finals of the tri-series, are desperate to salvage some pride on Thursday.

india Updated: Jan 28, 2004 13:06 IST

Having put up a brave fight in the last three matches, Zimbabwe will look to finally "cross the line" and score their first win in the tri-series cricket match against Australia on Thursday.

Zimbabwe, winless in six outings and out of contention for a berth in the finals, are desperate to salvage some pride although they have ran their more fancied rivals close on a couple of occasions.

The day-night match tomorrow may be inconsequential to Australia who have already booked their place in the best-of-three finals alongwith India, but the African minnows are not lacking in motivation.

They do not want to bow out of the competition without even a single win under their belt and are determined to add some points to their dismal points tally standing at three. In contrast Australia have 28 and India 23 from six outings each.

Zimbabwe's task at hand is enormous as both their rivals are in great form, and would need extraordinary inspiration to put it across Australia in their penultimate match of the tournament.

Captain Heath Streak was mindful of the progress made by his rather inexperienced bunch of players since the start of the series but admitted it was not proving to be enough.

"We are giving a good fight to these two top teams but we must improve a lot to be able to win the matches," Streak said.

"We need just that one per cent extra to be a better team. We must learn to cross the line," Streak said.

Streak's boys came close to upsetting the world champions in the previous league match at Adelaide, but as in the match against India, ran out of steam to fall short by 13 runs.

The Zimbabweans have been trying to learn from past mistakes and have certainly denied either India or Australia a cakewalk in the last three matches but now they must think beyond.

Their top order had looked in a mess in earlier matches but that seems to have been taken care of by Grant Flower who hit a glorious 94 on Monday. With the diminutive Tatenda Taibu replacing Vusi Sibanada, who was dropped as opener after he showed poor temparament in the match against India, the opening combination looks more or less settled.

The middle-order had looked sound against India with Sean Ervine and Stuart Carlisle hitting up centuries each but both failed on Monday against the Aussies which led Streak to remark consistency was an area which they needed to address.

Zimbabwe bowlers have also failed in either making early inroads or restricting their rivals to smaller scores after getting breakthroughs.

Barring the captain himself, the rest of the bowlers have yet to impress and they would have to pull up their socks to help their team pull off a win.

Australia have meant business right through the series and tomorrow they would not like to be stretched too far, looking as they are to reserve their best for the encounters against India. The two teams will lock horns in their last league match on Sunday before the start of the finals on February six.

With Adam Gilchrist being rested for his second match tomorrow, Damien Martyn would get another opportunity to get back his form. Martyn has had a miserable series so far and would have to come up with a decent show if he is to retain his place in the squad.

Record-breaking batsman Matthew Hayden also looked off-colour after being rested for a couple of matches and would be keen to resume doing what he is best at -- smashing runs all around the park.

But skipper Ricky Ponting appeared not too worried by the form of his players as he knows they pack enough firepower to counter the Zimbabweans.

Zimbabwe (from): Heath Streak (captain), Vusi Sibanda, Grant Flower, Stuart Carlisle, Tatenda Taibu, Andy Blignaut, Sean Ervine, Raymond Price, Douglas Hondo, Travis Friend, Dion Ebrahim and Stuart Matsikenyeri.

Australia (from): Ricky Ponting (captain), Brad Haddin, Damien Martyn, Matthew Hayden, Michael Bevan, Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke, Andy Bichel, Brett Lee, Brad Hogg, Brad Williams and Jason Gillespie.

First Published: Jan 28, 2004 13:06 IST