Another comfortable win for the Aussies

Steve Waugh's joy at Australia's emphatic 2-0 series clean sweep over Zimbabwe has been tempered by the realisation that he will not have a full strength attack at his disposal for the heavyweight contest against India later this year.


The Australian team with the Southern Cross Trophy. The team won the Test series against Zimbabwe 2-0. — Pic. HAMISH BLAIR/GETTY IMAGES-

Steve Waugh's joy at Australia's emphatic 2-0 series clean sweep over Zimbabwe has been tempered by the realisation that he will not have a full strength attack at his disposal for the heavyweight contest against India later this year.

This summer's showpiece event in Australia is a four-Test series against India beginning in early December but Glenn McGrath (ankle surgery), Shane Warne (drug suspension) and Darren Lehmann (torn Achilles tendon) are all expected to be missing for the first Test in Brisbane.

At least Jason Gillespie (side strain), Brett Lee (torn stomach muscles) and Stuart MacGill (torn calf) are all likely to play even though none could be considered for the current one-day tour to India.

"We'd obviously like McGrath, Gillespie and Lee to front up for the first Test but realistically I don't think all three will be there,'' Waugh said after Australia had thrashed Zimbabwe by nine wickets in Sydney with a day to spare.

The approaching Test series will set up another clash between Matthew Hayden and the India bowlers, who were spanked by the brutal left-hander two years ago.

Ricky Ponting packs a lot of power in this shot. The Aussie came up with a fine 169 in the first innings and an unbeaten 53 in the second. -- Pic. DANIEL BEREHULAK/GETTY IMAGES-

It was the 2001 series where Hayden first exploded onto the international stage as a world class batsman after years of clutching to the fringes, scoring 549 runs in three Tests at an average of almost 110 with a century and double century.

He has continued that awesome form now to be regarded as the best batsman in the world, reinforcing it with a spectacular century against Zimbabwe in Sydney as Australia ran down a victory target of 172 at virtually a run a ball.

While Simon Katich relaunched his international career by rewriting the pecking order of back-up slow bowlers with 6-65 from his left arm wrist spinners, Hayden charged to an unbeaten 101 from just 85 balls with 11 fours and three sixes, propelling him further into history.

Along the way Hayden passed 4000 runs in his 46th Test. So spectacular has been the left-hander's resurrection these past two and a half years that Don Bradman is the only Australian to have reached that milestone in fewer matches. He did it in 31 while Neil Harvey also took 46.

But no Australian has made more centuries on the way to this exclusive mark, which includes just 18 of Hayden's countrymen. Hayden has 16 hundreds while Bradman and Harvey had 15 when they reached 4000 runs.

By way of contrast Sunil Gavaskar did it in 43 matches with 16 hundreds, Rahul Dravid 48 Tests with nine centuries, Gundappa Viswanath 53 with eight hundreds and Sachin Tendulkar 58 with 13 centuries.

Runs flowed from Matthew Hayden's blade in the two-Test series against Zimbabwe. Hayden's 101, in Sydney, came from just 85 balls and in the process he passed the 4000-run mark in Test cricket. -- Pic. HAMISH BLAIR/GETTY IMAGES-

"I'm honoured and privileged. It's been a career of ups and downs,'' Hayden said of the achievement.

"I've really enjoyed the journey thus far. I'm sure there'll be plenty more downs and hopefully some ups as well. It's been a wonderful road over the last couple of years.''

Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak said Hayden was as difficult to bowl to as Tendulkar and Brian Lara.

Stuart Carlisle celebrates his century in the first innings. In fact his 118 helped Zimbabwe post a decent total of 308. — Pic. HAMISH BLAIR/GETTY IMAGES-

"On recent form he's definitely up there and he's such a hard hitter of the ball, it's hard to settle against him,'' Streak said.

"He's one of the hardest guys I've had to bowl to. He's found something, that secret of success that's just clicked.''

Not surprisingly Hayden was named Man of the Series. That was never in doubt after his world record 380 in Perth but he shored it up with his latest hundred.

That came with a little help from Man of the Match Ricky Ponting, who followed his 169 in the first innings with an unbeaten 53 in the second. It could have been more but with Hayden 90 and just a dozen runs required for victory, Ponting selflessly defended the last four balls of successive overs to ensure his partner maintained strike.

Hayden reached his century in emphatic fashion, sweeping a ball from off-spinner Gavin Ewing into the second tier of the Bill O'Reilly Stand.

So small was the crowd for the final day that deep square leg fieldsman Blessing Mahwire was forced to climb the fence and go searching for the ball amongst the seats, holding the game up for several minutes.

Simon Katich has just taken the wicket of Trevor Gripper and the Aussies are naturally elated. Katich finished with six wickets in Zimbabwe's second innings. — Pic. HAMISH BLAIR/GETTY IMAGES-

Only the members stands remained open as a meagre 1312 turned up to see some wonderful cricket, bringing the four-day total to only 18,532.

It was the lowest total since three days were washed out during a Pakistan Test in 1990 and the lowest for a result in 115 years, prompting Steve Waugh to suggest that Cricket Australia needed to review programming so early in the season.

"I was going to thank them individually at the end of the day,'' Waugh joked of the crowd.

"It's unusual. I think the authorities are going to have to check that out and work out why people didn't turn up because it is a pretty good side to watch.

"Obviously the culture is not there for watching Tests in the off-season.'' Hayden was also disappointed but said it was understandable as he enthused about the Rugby World Cup which has engulfed Australia and attracted more than 35,000 to an Ireland-Namibia game at the adjoining Aussie Stadium during the Test.

It was certain a contrast to the 42,000 who celebrated Steve Waugh's last ball century against England 10 months earlier when more than 181,000 attended the five days.

Katich completely out-bowled fellow spinner Brad Hogg in this game with greater flight and turn, although neither would appear to have the control to trouble the spin kings of India and Sri Lanka that Australia will meet over the next year.

Despite scoring just one century in State cricket over the past two seasons, Katich, 28, has leapt all comers to retain his place as the No. 6 batting allrounder.

More significantly, he presents a wonderful extra option for tours of the spin-friendly subcontinent which are coming up in the next 12 months.

Waugh added perspective to Katich's remarkable performance, with the left-hander also batting with enterprise for a bright 52 in just his second Test and first in Australia.

"Simon is a big match player. He's got the temperament, he's ready made for Test cricket,'' said Waugh.

"Getting six wickets is good for your confidence and I also thought he batted well.

Ray Price is jubilant after taking the wicket of Damien Martyn. — Pic. HAMISH BLAIR/GETTY IMAGES-

"Don't get too carried away with it but he has potential. He hasn't bowled much at all until last year.

"Obviously once he gets six wickets he's going to get keen on his bowling.

"He's got a good action. He flights the ball well and turns it so there's no reason why he can't continue to improve.''

Waugh praised Zimbabwe for their pluck and wondered if the International Cricket Council should relax its rules to let players such as Graeme Hick, born in Zimbabwe but a former England Test player, return to his native country to help the struggling side.

"That's me thinking out loud but I think there's got to be ways of helping them out,'' Waugh said.

Streak lamented the recent loss of quality players Andy Flower, Henry Olonga, Murray Goodwin and Neil Johnson, who have all left the strife-torn country to play professionally elsewhere. Their departure was compounded by an injury to Grant Flower just before this tour.

Carlisle takes a brilliant catch to dismiss Steve Waugh off Price, who went on to take six wickets in Australia's first innings. — Pic. HAMISH BLAIR/GETTY IMAGES-

"They've just got to look at ways where they can keep the international game at the highest level,'' Streak said.

"It's important for world cricket that we don't fall too far behind the Test playing nations.

"It's good for the game if we can come out and fight.

"If we hadn't lost so many quality players who knows how far we could have taken Australia?''