Alan Butcher, the Zimbabwe coach, called for "braver" batting from his team after their 10-wicket defeat to Pakistan that cost them the ODI series. Butcher said their reluctance to try and score more quickly was due to a lack of confidence and that they are capable of scoring more runs if they changed their mindset.
"I still feel that the side don't necessarily believe in themselves as much as they should. We need to be braver if we are going to post totals that win matches."
Zimbabwe crawled to 225 for 6 after batting slowly on a pitch that was easier to score runs on than the surface in Bulawayo, where they also lost. Instead of showcasing their shots, Zimbabwe employed an ultra-cautious approach against the variations of Sohail Tanvir, Junaid Khan and Aizaz Cheema and even treated the spinners, whose role was almost negated by the strip, with circumspection.
Butcher thinks that the batsmen's watchfulness was overcompensation for the fear of being bundled out cheaply. "In the not too distant past we were prone to collapses and so people are perhaps a little bit wary of trying to expand their game too early in case we lose wickets and that's may be holding us back a bit."
Both Zimbabwe's openers were out by the 14th over with only 36 runs on the board and that prompted Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor to retreat into a shell and consolidate. They did not actively pierce the gaps and although they put on a century third-wicket partnership, they scored slowly. "Perhaps we were a bit inflexible in the way we tried to play," Butcher said. "We were trying to hit the ball hard instead of deflect it and with the ball moving around a bit, we didn't score enough runs in the third man and fine leg area which just dried up our scoring rate and made it easy for Pakistan to bowl to us."
The performance by Zimbabwe's two senior batsmen did not go unappreciated though, with Masakadza's a little overdue after a bit of a lean spell. "Without ever looking in prime form, Hamilton stuck through a lot of difficult periods and was just looking as if he was starting to strike the ball well when he was run out," Butcher said.
Taylor's knock was needed for a different reason, to make up for the blunder he made at the toss, when he forgot the team's plan and said they would like to bat instead of field. Taylor admitted his mistake in the post-match interview and Butcher said that it was not something that the team would dwell on. "We decided that we wanted to bowl, he [Taylor] happened to say the wrong thing," Butcher said. "He stood up in front of everybody and said that's what he did. It takes a big man to admit his mistake. It's something that happens; we'll have to live with that and move on."
Zimbabwe's line-up were surprised to hear that they needed to take first guard, but Butcher did not see that as an excuse for them posting a below-par total and said they should have scored more. Taylor had a total of around 250 in mind, but Butcher could not be sure how many runs would have been enough to defend successfully, because Pakistan's openers were in such devastating form. "If we'd got 250-260, it would have put them under a bit of pressure but that possibly wouldn't have been enough, given the way they played and the pitch was a very good one."
Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan's centurion was also pleased with the way the pitch played, with more bounce and carry on offer than Bulawayo. "We tried to spend more time on the wicket because it was easier to get runs than it was at Queens," he said. "We were very determined to win this game because it was the decider of the three."
With the series won for Pakistan, Zimbabwe will have nothing but pride to play for in the dead rubber on September 14. Even though it will not change the outcome of the series, a good performance there will make a statement about the progression of cricket in the country.
"Every game that we play is important on many levels, especially in terms of gaining credibility at international cricket and for individuals to show that they can perform at the top level," Butcher said. "Of course we want to win because every game that we win is vital to the development of cricket in this country."