Zimbabwe v Australia, Tri-series, Harare August 31, 2014

Utseya's intent played a big part - Chigumbura

Elton Chigumbura: "My role was just to support Prosper" © AFP

What do you say to a man who has just sealed a once-in-a-generation victory over the top-ranked one-day side in the world? Elton Chigumbura's first words to Prosper Utseya after the offspinner shellacked Mitchell Starc over deep midwicket for six were a plain and simple: "Well done!"

"[Prosper] doesn't normally play like that but he was positive," Chigumbura added. "Even before the innings he said 'I'm going to be positive today. It played a big part in us winning this game."

Utseya dominated the 55-run stand eighth-wicket stand that took Zimbabwe home, swiping his way to an unbeaten 30 from 28 deliveries even as the normally more adventurous Chigumbura reined in his attacking instincts.

"We just had to bat 50 overs and stay calm," Chigumbura said. "My role was just to support Prosper because he was being more positive than I was. I knew if I could bat until the end we would have a good chance."

Chigumbura reflected proudly on the history made by Zimbabwe today, the embattled side having struggled through the early matches of this series, and the one-dayers against South Africa that preceded the tri-series.

"It was a proud moment for everyone, for Zimbabwe Cricket and even for Zimbabwe because it's been more than 30 years since we beat Australia," he said.

Moments such as these can play a strong role in bringing a team together, and Chigumbura insisted that Zimbabwe would celebrate exactly as they play: as a team. "We play for each other and for the nation, whoever is in the squad is part of the team. No matter if it's the coach or the assistant, we play as a team," he said.

I don't feel vindicated because I had nothing to prove
Stephen Mangongo, the Zimbabwe coach

Stephen Mangongo, Zimbabwe's coach, has come under a fair bit of criticism since taking charge of the national side ahead of their series against South Africa. Some if it seemed warranted as his play-for-your-place mantra translated into a series of performances during which the top order seemed unable to either express themselves freely or occupy the crease. While one victory does not make a coaching legacy, today's win will take a great deal of pressure off both the team and their coach.

"I don't feel vindicated because I had nothing to prove," Mangongo said. "I was just doing my job. We've still got our feet on the ground. In the next game we're playing no. 2 in the world. It's a tall order. We have to play out of our skins when we play the best in the world. We are a work in progress, and we hope to continue to improve and get better."

The victory over Australia was Zimbabwe's first in 31 years, and Mangongo acknowledged that wins of this sort are uncommon for his team. "There's been other occasions where Zimbabwe have pulled these odd wins, and I think it ranks as one of those times," Mangongo said. "We are also very pragmatic. It's not many times that we're going to beat no. 1, no. 2 in the world, so when it does happen I'm sure those positive people in Zimbabwe feel happy about it."

"There are a lot of positive Zimbabweans who love sport. I'm sure you heard all the singing and the joyous, momentous occasion when Zimbabwe won and I'm sure those positive people are very happy that their team managed to win the game."

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town

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  • Dummy4 on September 1, 2014, 8:23 GMT

    hatts off to the zimbabweans as they positively played.

  • Andrew on September 1, 2014, 8:10 GMT

    @Chris Munhuweyi: Well said my man! Agree with you 100%.

  • Ajber on September 1, 2014, 2:36 GMT

    I have seen a more aggressive cricket from Zimbabwe never before in this series.. Is it a Mangongo effect???

  • Dummy4 on August 31, 2014, 21:32 GMT

    @Nduru.. I do agree with you that winning a match against a top side certainly buys a coach more time in cricket, and indeed all sports. What is also apparent is that a coach can not perpetually treat grown-up man with an iron fist and expect to get their buy-in and top performance. Publicly cautioning and suspending Panyangara was a bad move on the part of Mangongo, it points towards a guy bent on wielding an still axe on a team already giving in 120% for the country. He hasnt earned my respect, but the players certainly have. If we can have the look i saw in Utseya's eyes in all our players for the rest of the series, I personally wont ask for more, not even another win.

  • Andrew on August 31, 2014, 19:58 GMT

    I have been one of those critical of Mangongo because his rhetoric seemed unrealistic and was in danger of alienating players and creating a joyless, insecure team. However, he seems to have become a bit more pragmatic and realised that senior players are valuable, even if they can't play "match-winning" games every time against the big teams. He also seems to have realised that a player like Taylor, or Elton, or Williams will not perform every time, but you still must keep faith in their ability to bounce back and their proven class, even when their form dips. I feel a bit sorry for Vusi Sibanda in this regard because he is someone who is one of our better and more experienced openers who has been dropped.

    Respect is earned and Mangongo has earned some respect (from players and fans) with this victory. He still has some way to go to convince us that his authoritarian tactics are sustainable. As long as he also nurtures players and exercises pragmatism, he might just pull it off.

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