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Zimbabwe's attempts to recover to a respectable level are hindered by limited exposure to the leading nations
May 4, 2010
Prosper Utseya, the Zimbabwe captain, has pleaded for his team to be given more international cricket as they bid to return to Test cricket following their self-imposed exile from the five-day game. Zimbabwe were the first team to officially be eliminated from the World Twenty20 after a rain-effected defeat against New Zealand which will raise questions about much the team is developing despite positive reports.
However, Zimbabwe's attempts to recover to a respectable level are hindered by limited exposure to the leading nations. They have recently toured West Indies and will host Sri Lanka and India for a triangular tournament soon, but attracting top-level opposition is proving hard and some sides - England, Australia and New Zealand - still refuse to tour the country due to the political situation. Also, last year they couldn't take part in the World Twenty20 because the UK government would have refused visas.
"It's disappointing not to play any cricket because that's our life, that's our living. We'd love to play in every tournament," Utseya said. "We'll never know how long it will take if we aren't playing enough cricket so for me whenever we get an opportunity to play we need to make the most of it.
"But if you aren't playing the top teams - I think the last time we played New Zealand was five years ago - you won't be sure where you are. All we can do is work on our game and hope to learn."
Zimbabwe warmed-up for the tournament with victories against Pakistan and Australia, but couldn't bring that form into the main event although both their matches were hit by the weather. They were short of the D-L target against Sri Lanka and collapsed horribly against New Zealand as nine wickets fell for 26 after a positive start in the first six overs. It was a demise out of the bad old school of Zimbabwe cricket with an array of cross-batted swipes and Utseya admitted his side folded under pressure.
"Coming into the proper games I didn't think my guys played well under pressure," he said. "We had hoped after performing the way we did against Australia and Pakistan that we believed in ourselves, and were confident, but we didn't put up a performance."
The outcome of yesterday's game still rankled with Utseya after Zimbabwe couldn't obtain the D-L sheet in time for the start of their chase, but he was quick to concede that it was ultimately the batting that had let the side down. The performances backed up Alan Butcher's assessment when the new coach said he was realistic about the team's short-term ambitions.
"I'm disappointed with both games, but yesterday was a bit different because we also didn't have Duckworth-Lewis chart when it came into play," he said. "In terms of our bowling in both games I'm pretty happy and we are improving but we need to work hard on our batting.
"I think our bowling has been consistent and if you compare the game that was played yesterday when West Indies scored 191 and we conceded 170 against Sri Lanka so that's a positive, but we just aren't putting it together as a batting unit."
For Daniel Vettori, though, there was the satisfaction in leaving the group stage with two victories. His attack was under pressure as Zimbabwe reached 58 for 1, but three wickets apiece for Nathan McCullum, who collected consecutive Man of the Match awards, and Scott Styris meant the innings went into a terminal decline.
"We always knew it would be difficult against the slower bowlers and it was gripping so it was almost a case of trying to get those six overs out of the way so we could get into what we do best which is the middle to late stages," Vettori said.
"If you couple that with the Sri Lanka performance to go through with two wins is what we aimed for. There are always aspects you want to improve - like the first six overs - but I think the fightback in the field and the way Nathan and Scott bowled made a huge difference so we walk away confident."
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