Aussies record scrappy 5-wkt win over Zimbabwe in tri-series

Australian players celebrate the wicket of Zimbabwean batsman Hamilton Masakadza, right, during the T20 cricket match between Zimbabwe and Australia, at Harare Sports Club, Friday, July 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) Australia struggled to overcome a weakened Zimbabwe by five wickets on the penultimate ball in the last round-robin match of the Twenty20 tri-series on Friday.

Australia and Pakistan had already qualified for Sunday’s final after both won three matches each.

Zimbabwe, which went into the tournament without its top five players due to a dispute with their cricket board, lost all four of its games.

Glenn Maxwell (56) and Travis Head (48) shared a century stand in pursuit of Zimbabwe’s 151-9 until seamer Blessing Muzarabani (3-21) removed both of them in successive overs and also took a brilliant catch to dismiss Nic Maddinson (2).

Marcus Stoinis, 12 not out, then guided Australia to 154-5 when he smashed Donald Tiripano’s low full toss to the square leg boundary on the penultimate delivery.

”I thought they bowled well toward the end and shows the value of having a set batsman at the end,” Australia captain Aaron Finch said.

”The bowling was very good. We restricted Zimbabwe 15-20 runs short of what they’d have liked. Hopefully, we peak in the final.”

Earlier, Solomon Mire (63) led Zimbabwe by scoring his second half-century in the tournament before he was clean bowled by Andrew Tye (3-28) in the 19th over.

Mire and Peter Moor (30) rebuilt Zimbabwe with a 68-run, fourth-wicket partnership after fast bowler Billy Stanlake (2-21) reduced the home team to 44-3 in the sixth over.

Mire struck five fours and two sixes and held the innings together despite Zimbabwe losing three wickets in Tye’s 19th over.

”(We) fought well and took it to the end, which was good,” Zimbabwe captain Hamilton Masakadza said.

”The wicket played slower than expected and we couldn’t quite kick on in the end even though we had a good partnership in the middle.”

The in-form Finch, who bettered his own world record and scored 172 against Zimbabwe this week, could score only 3 before he holed out at deep mid-wicket in the third over.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey (16), opening for the first time in the series, was caught behind before Maxwell and Head shared their 103-run stand off 71 balls. Maxwell smashed five sixes and a four.

It seemed Australia would cruise to victory, but Muzarabani struck late and made Australia work hard to tune up for the final.