In October 2003 Australia fell under the spell of the Rugby World Cup fever. There has probably not been a more hyped sporting event at Down Under since certainly not the 2015 Cricket World Cup, which suffered from a lack of prominence as, inexplicably, only Australian matches were shown on free television until the semi-finals.
But in late 2003, the whole country was united behind the Wallabies, the national team where people like Wendell Sailor and George Gregan temporarily became household names, even in the interior of Australian football.
Against the backdrop of this frenzy, Australia staged a series of two tests with Zimbabwe most famously remembered by Matthew Hayden who briefly set a world record score of 380 in the first test at the WACA.
Zimbabwe started to run into problems off the field leading to the banning of key players, but the Heath Streak-led team was still competitive, underscored by a resurgence in a much-forgotten second test at the SCG.
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But their hopes of giving an impregnable Steve Waugh squad a tough chase in the fourth innings were dashed by part-time spinner Simon Katich, who played a career 6-65 in the final nine-wicket victory in Australia.
It is the last time that Zimbabwe played a test match against Australia. In the following years, Australia has organized 24 Tests against India and 20 against England.
Australia, too, has not accommodated Bangladesh since 2003, scrapping last year’s one-off Perth Test against Afghanistan, leaving Afghanistan’s cricket officials all too easily a sour taste.
Cricket Australia (CA) has left the heat on social media after it bolstered global perceptions that it was somewhat elitist, seemingly trying to mend its ways. The one-off Test in Afghanistan will be played in November, while Australia Test newcomers Ireland will play the next summer
Exactly when Zimbabwes’ long drought will end is unknown, although they will be touring Australia in August for a three-day One-Day International (ODI) series, originally scheduled last year before being postponed.
Discussions about the tour are still being obliterated by the respective boards, but Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) officials remain hopeful that a one-off test can be organized.
We haven’t had that discussion yet (one-time test), but it’s something we’ll look at, HR Chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani told me. If a one-time test could be done, that would be great – like what they are doing with Afghanistan and (possibly) Ireland.
Last year’s ODI series was set to be played in Townsville and, reportedly, Darwin in August. Australia played winter tests in Cairns and Darwin against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in 2003 and 2004, but the concept failed to take hold.
Australia, however, could be incentivized to revive it amid a lengthy hiatus from recently Test cricket controversially procrastinate their tour of South Africa.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, is in the midst of a hectic testing schedule, having drawn a series of two tests against Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi last month and the upcoming series will be staged against Pakistan and Bangladesh.
But finally, playing powerhouse Australia would mean something extra to Zimbabwe, which, unsurprisingly, has felt rejected for so long.
We are disappointed (we are not playing against Australia), but we expect equal treatment, Mukuhlani said. We want to play Test cricket with everyone and be treated like any other country.
CA was unable to respond to inquiries about Zimbabwe’s proposed tour.
Zimbabwe, which has also not played Tests against India and England for over 15 years, showed promising signs against Afghanistan in their first red-ball action in over a year with an extended 10 wicket win in two days, but fell away in a second Test defeat.
Over the past two years, we’ve shown we’re a good Test side, Mukuhlani said. We are on the road to reconstruction … we are a young side, but the future looks bright.
We believe we should play a lot of tests, he added, saying Zimbabwe would likely host an A Series against South Africa later this year.
While Australia’s play remains a mystery to Zimbabwe, Afghan CEO Rahmatullah Qureishi told me his team was optimistic about putting aside the initial disappointment of the postponement of the last November test.
The (postponement) was disappointing, but everyone is excited about the historic test in November, he told me. Conditions will be different, but it will be a good experience for the team.
Qureishi said the game would be played in Hobart, as first reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, but Brisbane loomed as a fallback option in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic with the girls’ test between the teams to be held just before the Ashes series between Australia and England.
The official schedule will be released in the coming weeks in a revelation that should also reveal whether Zimbabwe’s Test dreams will finally come true.
Assuming their tour of Australia even continues.
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