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T20 World Cup Top Moments: When Zimbabwe tamed the mighty Australians in 2007

The Australian team went to South Africa for the 2007 World T20 as the tournament favourites, their stature enhanced not just by the fact that they were World No 1 and the reigning world champions, but also because of a squad that was loaded with veritable heavyweights of the sport.

Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden opened the batting for the mighty Aussies with Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds and Michael Hussey following. Their bowling attack consisted of the Brett Lees and Mitchell Johnsons and Nathan Brackens of the world.

Zimbabwe, on the other hand, were a side brimming with untested youngsters—thanks to a player exodus that had started since 2004—led by Prosper Utseya.

When Australia won the toss and elected to bat, the signs of a one-sided contest were there for all to see.

This, however, is T20 cricket. Australia lost Hayden in the first over, right after he had smacked a delivery from Elton Chigumbura to the fence. 10 deliveries later, Hayden’s opening partner Gilchrist was walking back to the hut.

Things went from bad to worse in the span of a few more overs with Australia ending the first six overs with their scoreline reading 22 for 3, with Ponting also succumbing to a rash shot. While assured knocks of 33 from Symonds and 35 not out from Brad Hodge steadied the innings and gave Australia’s final total of 138 some semblance of respectability, the game was still in grasp of Zimbabwe as they got ready to start their chase.

Zimbabwean cricket captain Prosper Utseya (left), batsman Elton Chigumbura (right) celebrate their victory over Australia in a Twenty20 Cricket World Cup match at Newlands in September 2007. AFP

Zimbabwean cricket captain Prosper Utseya (left), batsman Elton Chigumbura (right) celebrate their victory over Australia in a Twenty20 Cricket World Cup match at Newlands in September 2007. AFP

There was an unexpected rain delay in the innings break. But once the match started, a 21-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, Brendan Taylor, took centrestage.

If there were any nerves in the Zimbabwe camp, Taylor, with his opening partnership of 31 runs with Vusi Sibanda calmed them.

While the Australian bowling attack started to appear toothless, the vagaries of weather at Newlands started coming into play as there was intermittent rain. Each spell brought the cold calculations of the Duckworth-Lewis Method sharply into focus. Even Ponting was caught by cameras pulling out a crumpled-looking sheet of calculations out of his pocket, an unlikely face-saver for the mighty Australians. At one point in the seventh over, Zimbabwe were ahead as per the D/L calculation, but when Tatenda Taibu lost his wicket to Mitchell Johnson, Australia edged ahead.

Australia were battling to save face. Zimbabwe were trying to recreate their heady victory over the Australian team at the 1983 Prudential World Cup.

By the 12th over, the rain brought the match to a standstill. The D/L method favoured Ponting’s men, with Zimbabwe batting on 71/4. 20 nerve-jangling minutes later, the rain stopped, the covers came off, and a 21-year-old Taylor re-set on his mission to get his country a famous victory. It took three overs for the overwhelming underdogs to get in a winning position on the D/L method. But they didn’t need it. They beat the Australians with one ball to spare and five wickets in hand, with Taylor scripting a famous chapter of Zimbabwean cricket history with an unbeaten 60-run knock.

It was a result that caused Australia skipper Ponting to admit: “We’ve just got to start respecting the game now.”

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