Zimbabwe were as good as any team in one-day international cricket until the crisis of 2003, when several players including Andy Flower and Henry Olonga protested against the Mugabe regime in the country. This had a great effect on the team’s cricketing fortunes and in a flash, most of the top players resigned, giving way to a weak outfit. Zimbabwean cricket has not been the same since then, and they were kept out of Test cricket from 2005 to 2011. Here, we look back at five of Zimbabwe’s finest one-day victories, in chronological order:-
1) Beat Australia by 9 runs, Trent Bridge 1983
This was Zimbabwe’s very first one-day international, and they celebrated the moment with an astonishing upset win over Australia. Both teams were playing their opening World Cup encounter, and it was captain Duncan Fletcher (who later coached England and is currently coaching India) who starred with both bat and ball to shock the Aussies. First Fletcher cracked an unbeaten 69 off 84 balls, putting on 70 for the 6th wicket with Kevin Curran and an unbroken 75 for the 7th with Iain Butchart to help Zimbabwe post 239/6 in 60 overs after being 94/5. Later he took 4/42 as Australia were restricted to 226/7. A few days later, Zimbabwe had India reeling at 17/5 before Kapil Dev’s fabled 175 robbed them of another upset victory.
2) Beat England by 9 runs, Albury 1991-92
This was Zimbabwe’s third World Cup, and they managed to score an upset win over eventual runners-up England – a win which paved the way for their Test status a year later. Zimbabwe looked down and out as England bowled them out for only 134 after electing to field. Captain Dave Houghton top-scored with 29. However, Eddo Brandes, chicken farmer by profession, responded with a stunning spell of seam bowling to reduce England to 43/5. A stand of 52 for the 6th wicket between Neil Fairbrother and Alec Stewart made England favourites again, but with the overs ticking away, England lost their last 5 for 30 runs, getting bundled out for 125 with 5 balls to spare. Brandes, who finished with 10-4-21-4, was named Man of the Match.
3) Beat England by 131 runs, Harare 1996-97
Coming into this match, Zimbabwe had already scored their maiden series win in a bilateral series – courtesy two narrow wins by 2 wickets and 7 runs in the first two games of this 3-match series. However in this final game, Zimbabwe were absolutely clinical in condemning England to one of their most embarrassing defeats. After being put in to bat, the hosts made 249/7 with Alistair Campbell (80*) and Grant Flower (62) being the top-scorers. Then it was that man Brandes again, as he mopped off the top five of England’s line-up, including a hat-trick, on his way to figures of 5/28. 13/3 became 54/5 and then 77/8, before England somehow crossed the hundred run-mark to finally fold for 118 in 30 overs. Zimbabwe had truly become a strong one-day international team now.
4) Beat India by 1 wicket, Faridabad 2001-02
Douglas Marillier’s famous ‘Marillier Scoop’ ensured an unbelievable win for Zimbabwe in this first ODI of the 5-match series in India. After half-centuries from VVS Laxman and Saurav Ganguly helped India reach a solid 274/6, Zimbabwe were in trouble at 21/2. Campbell and Andy Flower steadied the ship with a 111 run stand for the 3rd wicket before the latter departed for 71. Zimbabwe were in the hunt at 186/3, but then they lost 5/24, including Campbell for 84, to be 210/8 with 65 needed from 34 balls. Enter Marillier, who began to wield his willow, repeatedly stepping across and hitting the ball over the keeper’s head. With 49 to win off 24, Marillier collected 21 in an over from Sanjay Bangar. The 9th wicket went with 22 to win off 14, but it was not a problem for Marillier, who ended with 56* off 30 balls with 10 fours and a six to lead his side to a 1-wicket win with 2 balls to spare.
5) Beat New Zealand by 1 wicket, Bulawayo 2011-12
Post 2004, victories for Zimbabwe have been few and far between, except against the Associates. In this context, this win last season must surely serve as a breath of fresh air. Zimbabwe had lost the first two of this 3-match series and looked set for a whitewash when the Kiwis racked up 328/5, with Ross Taylor (119) and Kane Williamson (100*) adding 195 for the 5th wicket. Zimbabwe were then 0/1, before Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor put on 100 for the 2nd wicket. Taylor made 75 while Tatenda Taibu chipped in with 53, but at 183/5, New Zealand were on top. Malcolm Waller and Elton Chigumbura (47) then put on a match-winning 112 for the 6th wicket. There were a few jitters at the end, but Waller stayed on, making 99* to lead his team to victory with a ball to spare.
A few notable omissions from this short list include the wins over India and South Africa in the 1999 World Cup by 3 runs and 48 runs respectively, and the 47 run win over West Indies at Sydney in 2000-01, where the latter were bowled out for 91.