Coach Rajput commends Zimbabwe for taking it to the last over

Despite remaining winless in the tri-series, the Zimbabwe head coach is confident the team's resilience in their last two matches will hold them in good stead

Blessing Murzarabani celebrates a wicket with his team-mates  •  AFP

Blessing Murzarabani celebrates a wicket with his team-mates  •  AFP

Five days ago, Zimbabwe didn't look close to challenging the world's top-ranked T20I side. Three days ago, it looked like there wasn't a record Australia couldn't break against them. But in the last two days they've found some mettle, taking two games against formidable opposition into the last over and giving their new head coach Lalchand Rajput something to smile about.
"Pushing the two top teams into the last over is a victory in itself," Rajput said. "I think it's a great comeback. This team is a work in progress. We didn't have a good start, but the last two games were very close. We're getting there, but we're just not getting across the line.
"So we're really happy, but there's a lot of work to be done. The one-day series [against Pakistan] is around the corner, and these matches will definitely give us some confidence going into that."
After Sunday's final between Pakistan and Australia, Zimbabwe and Pakistan will head down to Bulawayo for five ODIs. Rajput wouldn't be drawn into any speculation as to the return or otherwise of Zimbabwe's missing players for that series, instead urging his squad to take responsibility for themselves.
"I'd like to see youngsters coming up and raising their hands and saying 'yes I'll do it for the team'. Tarisai Musakanda is one, PJ Moor is another one, Blessing Muzarabani bowled exceptionally well today. And Donald and Wellington also bowled very well. So guys are coming up and raising their hands, taking responsibility, and that's a very positive thing."
Rajput also singled out Solomon Mire, who is second on the run-scoring charts behind Aaron Finch in this tri-series with 212 in four innings, for particular praise. "[Solomon] Mire is a mainstay," he said. "He's gone from strength to strength and given us a bit of stability at the top of the innings. A lot of our batsmen could learn from how he's paced his innings. He has played for a while, but in cricket you're learning all the time. If he can work on the minor things in his game, he can become a very dependable player. He likes to hit the ball, but shot selection is very important. Bigger teams won't give you too many loose balls, so shot selection is key and if he can continue to improve on that, he'll be a consistent performer."
Looking ahead to the ODIs and beyond, Rajput reminded his charges of the need for showing some backbone, even in games they are not going to win.
"Cricket is a learning process. You never master it. First and foremost, I would like the players to be out of their comfort zone. That's very important. And not to give up until the last. These are players who [in the past] let things happen too easily, who let things slip too easily. In cricket you should never do that. Because anything can happen. Cricket is a funny game, and it can just turn in one over. And I think we showed today that we are getting there, because we fought to the very last over."

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town