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December 11, 2006
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Zimbabwe won all three of their matches in the African pre-qualifiers in Nairobi to gain a place at next year's World Cup qualifying tournament in Pakistan. They will join South Africa as Africa's representatives in the eight-nation competition, in which two teams will progress to the World Cup in Australia in 2009. It's a great feat for Zimbabwe, who were playing one-day internationals for the first time.
Tanzania came second, with two wins, followed by Uganda, with one victory and hosts Kenya who failed to register a win. Indeed, Kenya were comprehensively outplayed throughout, with 85 their top innings score. No batsman scored above 14 in any of their three matches, and wides contributed the most runs in every innings.
Wides were a feature of all teams, in fact. On average there were 32 wides bowled per innings which, while ensuring the umpires and scored earned their fees, is hardly a ringing endorsement for the game.
On the positive side, these matches will have been invaluable experience for all of the sides, from which they can only build. Women's cricket in Africa is still very much in its nascent stages and this was shown by the fact that there was only one fifty in all 12 of the tournament's innings. Tanzania managed to push past 200, in their opening match against Kenya, but otherwise there were some fairly low scores on offer.
But Julia Chibhahba's experience came to the fore as she led Zimbabwe in style, taking 7 for 26 from her 30 overs in the competition, including two analyses of 3 for 10, and the other 1 for 6 in ten overs against Kenya. Chibhabha, Zimbabwe Cricket's only female accredited coach, also contributed a handy 27 against Uganda. The Zimbabweans will need to use all of this experience when they head to Pakistan for the qualifying tournament next year, when they will step up a level.
Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Bermuda, Ireland, South Africa and Zimbabwe are already through to that penultimate stage along with Scotland and the Netherlands.
But in the meantime they can rightly celebrate a job well done. At a time when the men's side seems to be going backward, the women can only go forward.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.