ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

New Zealand v Zimbabwe, World Cup 2011, Group A, Ahmedabad

Familiar failings for Zimbabwe

The game against New Zealand was a chance for Zimbabwe to show the world they were improving but their batting wasn't up to the occasion

Nagraj Gollapudi in Ahmedabad

March 4, 2011

Comments: 8 | Text size: A | A

Such a toothless batting performance by Zimbabwe. Should the ICC see fit to approve a qualifying tournament for the 2015 World Cup, on this evidence Zimbabwe will be hard pressed to make it through to the main event.

Take a glance at the modes of dismissal: Charles Coventry wastes his wicket with indecision leading to a run out in only the second over, Tatenda Taibu spoons a catch and gets a reprieve but the very next ball has plays across an inswinger, Craig Ervine then slashes into the hands of deep point against a short and wide delivery knowing there were four men patrolling the off side, Elton Chigumbara, gets into a tangle against Daniel Vettori and next ball Regis Chakabva edges a wide delivery to slip.

It was a perfect batting pitch, on which Vettori thought 300 was possible. Zimbabwe knew it was a must-win game to entertain hopes of a quarter-final berth. They went into the game saying it was the most important match. They elected to bat. Then they went on to make mistakes they should not even commit in the nets.

The easy conclusion to come to is that Zimbabwe have not improved much despite all the positive talk of recent times. Yet that isn't the case. It is easy to forget that most players in the squad are inexperienced. Many were thrown into deep and treacherous water by the administrators immediately after the rebels' protest during the 2003 World Cup, which led to the disintegration of the squad that had been built over a longer period of time.

Brendan Taylor was the only Zimbabwe batsman who showed resistance, New Zealand v Zimbabwe, Group A, World Cup 2011, Motera, March 4, 2011
Brendan Taylor top-scored for Zimbabwe with 44 but that sort of application was sadly lacking elsewhere © Getty Images

Though there are quite a few players in the present squad who played in the Caribbean in 2007, most were, and are still, ill-equipped to deal with the pressures of international cricket. Only the likes of Taibu, Chigumbara, Taylor, Prosper Utseya and Ray Price have played against top-level opponents and kept their head on something approaching a regular basis.

Part of the problem is a lack of exposure as Zimbabwe have barely played top sides in the past few years and most of their success has had to come against Associates. When they visited Bangladesh late last year, a side they needed to compete against to show their development, they lost 3-1. Since May 2007, Zimbabwe have not won an ODI series against any major opponent, only beating Kenya and Ireland.

Their most notable performance against higher-ranked countries was to enter the final of the tri-series at home in 2010, but even if those were second-string sides from India and Sri Lanka, there was an important lesson there. Zimbabwe dared and made the final. But they blinked when the big moment arrived. It was the same when they pushed South Africa to the brink in two Twenty20 internationals then failed at the last hurdle. That trend has not changed much. Against Canada, last week, they were struggling at 7 for 2 with both their openers out yet they won the match by a 175-run margin.

"It is always hard against a bigger team. We had lost two wickets against Canada but we recovered," Chigumbara said. "It is very disappointing. The way we started with our batting - it is always hard to come back from losing three to four quick wickets in the first 15 overs. Today it was more about the technical errors."

Unfortunately Chigumbara's words seem to be falling on deaf ears. On Wednesday, he abruptly stopped training and had a loud message for the batsmen who were split into two sets nets. One set was facing the quick bowlers while the other was lined up against spinners on a worn pitch and Chigumbara had been watching the batsmen play casually. "I was telling them if the wicket is not playing proper make sure you apply yourselves. There is no point getting out three or four times [in the nets] as then you are doing nothing. [In the matches] most guys have got 10 runs and get out. But if they get their eye in, they are capable of scoring."

Seen in isolation, Zimbabwe batsmen played like amateurs today. Yet in the big picture, Zimbabwe have actually improved between the World Cups. And that only makes this defeat more painful.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Nduru on (March 5, 2011, 18:51 GMT)

Thanks @TimmyYoung. I know it is irritating when the fans of other teams write silly or unrealistic stuff. I must admit I have a soft spot for the Black Caps because my uncle and aunt live in Aukland, my cousin is the lead guitarist of quite a well known kiwi rock band (The Checks) and my sister in law lives in Christchurch (still). Good luck to you and your boys in the rest of tournament. Cheers

Posted by Finn92 on (March 5, 2011, 16:34 GMT)

It is a little disappointing but I hope they will bounce back. By all accounts their domestic tournaments are improving all the time and a lot of praise has been heaped on how it has been restructured so they are going in the right direction. Test status is not a long way away from them in my opinion, a couple more years of playing top nations and it could happen. If they do want to achieve however, they really need to nuture some quality fast bowlers as they have decent batters and above average spinners but no good seamers.

Posted by TimmyYoung on (March 5, 2011, 14:36 GMT)

@Nduru - Sorry to have offended you, I know full well how my team has been performing of late, but i also had no doubt that we would win this game. Also, as a humble NZ fan, i chose to reserve my judgment until after the game was over ;) but you're right, zim are recovering from hardships much worse than the caps. Sincerely I do wish zim the best of luck in the next world cup, i like many others always want the underdog to win, just as long as it's not against my team ;)

Posted by dummy4fb on (March 5, 2011, 13:06 GMT)

williams and rainsford were hily important chigumbura and coventry are pure waste chakabva is useless let taylor,hamilton,taibu,craig ervine,williams,lamb,price,cremer,mpofu and rainsford play!!!! this is the best line up zimbabwe can ever get in their whole cricketing lives!(i know williams and rainsford r injured)

Posted by Nduru on (March 5, 2011, 8:03 GMT)

@TimmyYoung - what gives you the right to gloat? Lest I need to remind you, your 'mighty' team was whitewashed by the same Bangladesh who were bowled out for 58 yesterday. Luckily for them - and well done to them for it - the NZ team got all their disciplines right yesterday. Most Zim supporters will realise that we are not yet able to compete against the stronger teams and at least we should put up a fight and acquit ourselves well. Unfortunatey, we had an off day yesterday and did not do at all well. But our off day yesterday was no worse than your off day against Australia. So Please, be a little more humble in victory and acknowledge that Zim is still recovering from a disaster much worse than the one you guys have recently had.

Posted by zimbos_05 on (March 5, 2011, 1:39 GMT)

Zimbabwe just dont play smart cricket. They need to learn to play with a straight bat and show some confidence in themselves when they on the field. When they battng they seem to more concerned with not going out rather than just playing sensibly and calmly and playing shots. It frustrates me more than anything. The only way Zimbabwe can overcome their batting woes is quite simple. Play with a straight bat and no fear of losing your wicket.

Posted by TimmyYoung on (March 4, 2011, 20:29 GMT)

It's funny reading some of the comments Zimbabwe fans were making before the game. Did you really think you had a chance against the mighty Black Caps? It's almost insulting for anyone to think we were gonna have a problem in this match. Have the Zim fans been humbled yet? better luck next world cup... ;)

Posted by dummy4fb on (March 4, 2011, 20:00 GMT)

spot on i say , zimbabwe have improves tremedously over the past few years , from being a vertually under 19 side to being on the fringes of professional cricketers, their course has sadly not been helped by having to play entirely against associates. the pace of aus and guile of the kiwis at that level is something most have experianced as flush floods the past ten years. while bangladesh and irelan have had the luxury of playing india , srilanka , pakistan , eng more rugularly zim have been playing namibia and kenya and the odd bang meeting , surely more exposure will bloody them, they have the stock , they just need the heat to make it a good broth . looking forward to seing how they apply themselves against pakistan and sri lanka, they should win against kenya, all around a much inproved world cup, the next one shold be a cracker, if this growth curve continues steadily, dont loose heart grant campbell streak and co, chigumbura taylor taibu and co will come good , just wait!

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