Australian captain Michael Clarke has re-injured his hamstring amid a batting collapse against Zimbabwe in Harare.
Australia have left the door open for No.10-ranked Zimbabwe to cause a major upset after a batting collapse and a recurrence of Michael Clarke’s hamstring injury rattled the tourists in Harare.
Playing his first match of the tri-series after tweaking his hamstring last week, Clarke’s 68 not out saved Australia from disaster in their total of 9-209 from their 50 overs.
Seizing up after racing through for a single to take him to 62, Clarke attempted to bat on.
But it eventually became too much for Clarke, and he opted to leave the field for treatment on his left leg.
On the very next ball, James Faulkner was caught at slip and then Mitchell Starc departed for three to leave Australia reeling at 7-150.
Veteran wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, who was dropped three times, stepped up with a cool-headed 49 off 66 balls and Ben Cutting clubbed 26 off 22 before being run-out to lift Australia over 200.
Clarke showed guts to return for the final two balls of the innings, but didn’t have to face another ball as No.11 Nathan Lyon smacked a six and a single.
On a big-turning wicket at Harare Sports Club, Australia lost 4-57 early as they stumbled to their lowest ODI total in 20 months.
The previous three matches the captain who has won the toss has elected to send the other team in, and Australia’s decision to buck the trend backfired badly.
Zimbabwe’s battalion of spinners made the most of the minefield wicket, sending Aaron Finch (11), Phil Hughes (10), George Bailey (one), Glenn Maxwell (13) back to the pavilion cheaply to make it 5-97 after 29 overs.
Bailey’s outside edge was beaten by an unplayable delivery from offspinner Sean Williams (2-21).
Clarke and Haddin steadied the ship with an unbeaten 50-run stand before the Australian skipper was forced from the field.
The 33-year-old would appear next to no chance of playing any further part in this series, and he may now face a race against time to get himself fit for the Test tour against Pakistan in the UAE starting in October.
Clarke played through injury the last time he batted for Australia way back in March, when he continued on with a fractured shoulder to lead his side to a famous Test victory over South Africa in Cape Town.
Without Clarke on Sunday against Zimbabwe, Australia may well have completely crumbled.
Despite announcing himself 100 per cent fit to return, Clarke didn’t look particularly fluent in his movement from the start until the hamstring twinge.
Williams and Prosper Utseya (2-45) took two wickets apiece for Zimbabwe, with six of the eight wickets taken by the spinners.