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Zimbabwe shift focus back to cricket

Firdose Moonda

March 10, 2014

Comments: 17 | Text size: A | A

Zimbabwe franchise players stay on strike, Harare, February 10, 2014
Zimbabwe haven't played an international match since September due to player strikes and administrative troubles © AFP
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News : Qualifying scenario 'tricky' for us - Brendan Taylor
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Teams: Zimbabwe

Seven years, and what seems like a lifetime ago, Zimbabwe delivered one of the most memorable performances in a twenty-over match . They upset an Australian side stacked with superstars including Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Brett Lee in their first outing of the 2007 World T20. However, it's been all downhill from there.

Zimbabwe have since played five other matches in three tournaments and lost all of them. The team have their task cut out for them. They first need to progress from a preliminary round to book their spot in the main draw. It's not a position a team that regards itself as part of the top-tier of international cricket wants to be in, and you have to hear the determination in Brendan Taylor's voice to understand why.

"We have to qualify," Taylor said after the team's arrival in Chittagong. "We are not taking any team lightly. As (Hong Kong captain) Jamie Atkinson said, the gap between associates and affiliates is reducing and it's good to see world cricket developing. It can be anyone's game on the day."

From next Monday, Zimbabwe will hope it's their game. That is the only way they can prove to themselves they are still part of the big boys' club, even though the cricketing situation in their country suggests otherwise.

Zimbabwe have not played international cricket since September, when they hosted Pakistan, as they've battled financial crisis. Their series against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan were postponed and a player strike brought the domestic season to a standstill. Their only game time has been a handful of domestic matches and a warm-up game against Bangladesh A. Still, Taylor remained ecstatic - "Our preparation has been excellent and we are looking forward to the challenge."

At least Zimbabwe have the advantage of familiarity. Bangladesh is where they have played 33 ODIs, the second-most outside their country. They've only played more limited-overs cricket in India, where conditions would be similar. Many of their players, such as Hamilton Masakadza and Sean Williams, spent time in the Dhaka Premier League as well as the Bangladesh Premier League.

It is a country Zimbabwe are comfortable in, and Taylor hopes they can make that count for something. "We've been here a number of times, so we are familiar with the conditions," he said. "It still takes a bit of getting used to, especially from where we come from but we had a good start with a good win over Bangladesh A. They had some good players in there so hopefully we can take some momentum from there."

Zimbabwe's squad contains a slew of slower bowlers, including the recalled legspinner Tafadzwa Kamungozi, and they would hope they have the horses for these courses. What they need now is to prove that they can still play and win as a team. They may have to remember that match against Australia to do so.

Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda and Prosper Utseya all played in that game, while Taylor was the man who engineered the win with 60 off 45 balls. He knows from personal experience that dreams can come true. The next week will tell whether they can also come true for a Zimbabwean side battered by administrative bungling, but desperate to prove they belong.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by MeijiMura on (March 13, 2014, 0:53 GMT)

I posted well before Zimbabwe left for Bangladesh that they would have their hands full in the warm-up games yet alone the qualification matches and Hong Kong didn't let me down. They are a serious side. They were desperately unlucky not to qualify for the 2015 World Cup having their game against Kenya washed out and decided on D/L which they otherwise would have won and that cost them qualification in the end. They bowled better than I expected against Zimbabwe but their batting proved strong yet again. They thrashed a Sri Lankan XI and beat Ireland by 7 wickets prior to beating Zimbabwe overnight. Zimbabwe will lose again when they play Afghanistan tomorrow. Afghanistan's batting is at least the equal of Hong Kong's but their bowling is far superior to not only every other associate including Ireland but well in advance of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh as well. Zimbabwe's confidence will be shattered after losing to Hong Kong. A loss against Afghanistan could finish them off altogether.

Posted by grahaam on (March 12, 2014, 18:30 GMT)

Chatara got battered by Hong Kong including I suspect a six off the last ball...no need for wayward pace in this tournament...When Zimbabwe beat Australia in this tournament 7 years ago Gary Brent was the stand out bowler ...medium pace , accuracy with movement....that why the selection here is so poor Meth an Chiababa should be here, and both can bat...very poor squad selection

Posted by and1son on (March 12, 2014, 8:26 GMT)

@grahaam I agree and disagree on certain aspects. I believe Vusi needs to get better at T20 level. I agree about Meth's movement of the seem. The problem is when the pitch is not offering assistance he becomes a liability with his 'gentle' pace. That also applies for Shingi Masakadza. I think the best choices are Panyangara and Chatara in the absence of Mpofu then maybe Vitori. Even Jarvis was hit and miss at T20.

With what we have the best setup is 1)vusi 2) raza 3)masakadza 4)taylor 5) chigumbura 6)williams 7)waller 8) utseya/maruma 9)panyangara/sw masakadza 10)kamungozi/mushangwe 11)chatara/vitori. I think we should have had one more batsman and one less pace bowler since spin is king. But this way it give batting to no.8 and 4 bowlers and 4 part-timers to cover four overs (Chigumbura/Masakadza/Williams/Waller). That should be enough for the preliminaries

Posted by grahaam on (March 11, 2014, 17:10 GMT)

Performing well against Bangladesh A is a war up only and not an indicator of anything..where is Keegan Meth? The best bowler for this type of cricket , swing movement variation and the right pace to deliver accuracy ...The quicks like Vitori and Chatara will be all over the place and punished by extras and then struggling under pressure with the "extra ball". Taylor and Williams are capable of moving the score well invention..this will only be beneficial if Mazakadza gets going and Sibanda is not caught early trying to pull in front of square...with such a weak bowling attack for this form of cricket big targets will be beyond these 4 batsmen. Pity the last few years have been so disruptive leaving a weak , poorly prepared side, with no real match preparation.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (March 11, 2014, 16:08 GMT)

This is T20 after all - a FAIR playing ground where all teams have an equal shot at victory. Unlike boring test cricket, where the matter could be one-sided after the first hour of play. This is why T20 will rule the world in the future and test cricket will end up in the retirement home. Good luck Zimbabwe.

Posted by and1son on (March 11, 2014, 11:22 GMT)

@wapuser thanks for the update. But man for man, Zim are the favourites. Ireland are looking at their spinner Dockrell. Wait til they face almost 20 overs from spin from the Zim guys from Utseya, Williams, Waller, Mushangwe/Maruma. Obviously they can win but Zim are favourites in spin friendly environment. Remember when Zim's fast bowlers were not so good and Zim opened with spinners on both ends?? You'll see...

@ZCFOutkast the Taylor engineering the win relates to Zim's win against Australia and goes on to mention that Hami, Vusi and Utseya played in that game too (emphasis being that they are still around from then). If you looked at the scorecard then, you will realize Chatara did not play for Zim then. Finally, cheers on the update ZCFOutkast. Good to see the senior boys leading the way and Chatara coming of age.

Posted by ZCFOutkast on (March 11, 2014, 10:59 GMT)

My comment isn't being published. I said Hamilton Masakdza laid the platform with a top score of 63, while the bowlers did the brilliant job of claiming 8 wickets to halt BD-A's charge with Chatara magnificent. Why is it that Taylor is said to have "engineered the win" but Masakdza is only said to have played, while the bowlers - Chatara in particular - are ignored? Did Taylor even score that many runs?

Posted by Qudhar on (March 11, 2014, 8:38 GMT)

Zimbabwe cricket will only start succeeding when we have the right people managing and selecting the team,untill Makoni and Mangongo live their current positions it shall forever be a Takashinga team, surely where is Kamungozi coming from, he cant even cement his place in his franchise team and then makes the national team,some clear jokes really, its just a Takashinga thing FULLSTOP!!

Posted by Mr-ZimCricket on (March 11, 2014, 6:53 GMT)

Zimbabwe is a tough country which has gone through immense tough times but what i know about the people in the country is that they square of as some of the most resilient people. this does transcend into our sport. during harsh times Zimbabwe has won soccer competitions, rugby tournaments and most recently made into the semi final of the African soccer tournament. so what i am saying is what has happened in Zim cricket in the past ten years has not stopped them from returning to test cricket on top of bangladesh and hasnt stop them from beating Pakistan recently. the team has depth, experience and resilience and this is a powerful weapon that they will use during this T20 world cup... good luck Zimbaz....

Posted by wapuser on (March 10, 2014, 23:35 GMT)

It will b upset if Zim beat IRL. Zimbabwe was best at the time of Heath Streak. But know they let down their fans.

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