HARARE — Australia thought victory over Zimbabwe was a sure thing, but they were courting trouble by underestimating their opponents
In the early hours of a Tuesday morning in 1983, Australia’s prime minister Bob Hawke famously told the country that “any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum”. Australia II had just won the America’s Cup.
It was one of the nation’s most defining moments of the 1980s, the end of New York Yacht Club’s 132-year hold on the trophy.
If that seems a lifetime ago – or more – consider that it was also in 1983 that Zimbabwe last beat Australia in a one-day international. Until on Sunday.
Any boss who sacked anyone for not turning up to work in Australia yesterday will have other reasons. They might not even believe Australia were currently playing a series, such is the dominance of other sports at this time of year.
Michael Clarke and his men won’t mind a bit if this loss, and their subsequent plummet from No One in the ODI world to No Four, is buried under the weight of AFL and NRL news in the sports pages.
But for the players, coaches and selectors it will serve as a timely reminder that you can be too clever for your own good. It is courting trouble to underestimate your opponents. Better to be reminded of that now than in a World Cup.
Trevor Hohns, the selector on duty, looked a lonely figure as Australia slid towards defeat, sitting in an empty bank of chairs in front of the change rooms. He quit as Australia’s chairman of selectors in April 2006, after the team had just won a Test series in South Africa 3-0.
Now, on his first tour having been reinstated to the selection panel, he has picked a team that lost to Zimbabwe.
Australia thought victory over Zimbabwe was a sure thing. They won’t admit that. But there is no other reason to have left Mitchell Johnson out of the side.
There are occasions when fast bowlers need a break, but two matches into a one-day series after a long winter’s break is not one of them. They wanted to see other options. Now they’ve seen them, don’t expect Johnson to rest again any time soon.
Not that Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Marsh, Ben Cutting and James Faulkner had much to work with on a Harare pitch that held the ball up more than a clay tennis court.
Johnson has shown at venues like Adelaide that he can still make batsmen hop on slow surfaces, and Zimbabwe’s batsmen must have breathed easier when they discovered he wasn’t playing. There was nothing there for the rest of the seamers.