Australia battles to 209-9 vs Zimbabwe
HARARE, Zimbabwe: Michael Clarke returned to Australia's lineup to hit an unbeaten half-century but also had a recurrence of his hamstring injury as the touring team made 209-9 in difficult batting conditions against Zimbabwe on Sunday.
Captain Clarke was 68 not out after having retired hurt, then returned in the last over to help Australia to a low but possibly still competitive total in its second meeting with Zimbabwe in the triangular series at Harare Sports Club.
The pitch was particularly helpful for Zimbabwe's spinners, who got the ball to turn dramatically from the first over to take six of the nine Australian wickets to fall.
Australia was 97-5 before being saved by a 50-run partnership between Clarke and Brad Haddin (49). Clarke limped off in the 43rd over. Haddin also combined for a late half-century stand with Ben Cutting (26) and those two partnerships ultimately took Australia battling past 200.
Zimbabwe has a chance of its first win in its third game in the triangular, but also will find it hard to negotiate a hugely tricky surface that is turning and unpredictably slow.
Australia has offspinner Nathan Lyon and part-time spinner Glenn Maxwell to help it defend its 209, but dropped legspinner Steve Smith to make way for returning skipper Clarke, who didn't come out to field with the Australians for Zimbabwe's reply.
Clarke hit just two fours in his 68 from 102 balls, an indication of the difficulties of batting on the dry and crumbly Harare pitch. In his first international game in six months -- and after passing a fitness test to play -- Clarke also again hurt his hamstring and made his way off the pitch just as Australia was preparing for its final scramble at the end.
Cutting partly came to the rescue with two fours and a six in his quickfire innings and Haddin hit two fours and three huge sixes in his unselfish knock before holing out one short of 50.
Australia had to fight hard to make it to 209 as the ball turned and bounced from the start and four of Australia's top five fell to the spinners. Openers Aaron Finch (11) and Phil Hughes (10) made little impact and George Bailey was beaten by an almost unplayable turning ball to be bowled for 1. He just smiled and shook his head.
Zimbabwe spinners Sean Williams (2-21) and Prosper Utseya (2-45) were the best bowlers.