ZIMBABWE’S eight wicket defeat by Bangladesh on Monday, which handed the home side their first One Day International (ODI) series win, was an anti-climax to a series which promised great
cheer after the first two matches were played.
It was a disappointing end for Zimbabwe, who had earlier in the series raced to a 2-0 lead and seemed destined for a milestone series victory. The series defeat somewhat dampened the results of the first two matches which the young team comfortably won. It was a bad feeling for the young players to face the brutal reality that their brave performances in the first two matches had counted for little.
Zimbabwe’s series defeat was the second time in the history of ODI cricket that a team has blown a 2-0 lead to lose a series.
The failure by Zimbabwe to go for the kill clearly exposed the team’s inexperience and inability to handle pressure of any kind. Having gone two nil up, there was pressure on Zimbabwe going into the third match on Saturday when a win would have clinched the series for Tatenda Taibu’s men.
A combination of inexperience and bad cricket were the undoing for Zimbabwe, who were bowled out for 198 runs after winning the toss and electing to bat first. Bangladesh reached their target losing just two wickets, the first time a team chasing down a target had successfully done so in the series.
Over dependence on skipper Taibu cost Zimbabwe dearly in the crucial last two matches, with the reliable player not managing to stamp his authority as he did in the Test series and the earlier one-dayers.
Even the demotion of the struggling Dion Ebrahim from the team for the last match could not save Zimbabwe from a shattering final defeat. The continued use of Ebrahim up until the final match despite his low strike rate should be a major talking point in the series post-mortem.
Zimbabwe desperately needed to play as a unit to win the series, and the batsmen needed to build a lot more consolidating partnerships in the middle order. Collapses like the one in the fourth match after opening pair of Barney Rogers and Stuart Matsikenyeri had put up 102 runs together in pursuit of Bangladesh’s 247 runs, do not go down well with the team’s faithful home fans.
However, man of the series Rogers batted himself to a standstill in the matches, just missing out on four half-centuries by a single run. A young batsman with a good temperament and fine technique, Rogers ably took over from Taibu as the leading batsman in the Zimbabwe team.
The Zimbabwe bowlers bowled a good line and length in the two victorious
matches. Seamers Douglas Hondo, Tinashe Panyangara and Christopher Mpofu used the pitch conditions to their best advantage by comfortably restricting the Bangladesh batters on a slow wicket which favoured the bowlers.
It was a pity that the Zimbabwe spin bowling attack was not able to take a cue from the menacing Bangladesh spin attack of Mohammed Rafique, Enamul Haque and Manjural Islam Rana. Prosper Utseya bowled his usual impressive economic spells, but the crucial breakthroughs are still lacking. At least the part-time spinners Rogers and Brendan Taylor were able to take the occasional important wickets.
The team has now returned home and will break for two weeks before embarking on a daunting tour of South Africa for two Tests and three ODIs. South Africa will prove too strong for Zimbabwe in both forms of the game.
But all hopes are pinned on the Zimbabwe selectors to choose an improved side that can at least provide some form of resistance, especially in the one-day game where Zimbabwe has a better chance of making impressions than in the Tests.
Eight dissenting players, who include former inspirational captain Heath Streak, will soon start playing domestic cricket but it still remains to be seen if they will be available for selection by the time the team leaves for South Africa.
Also, some Zimbabwe “A” players who were recently in Namibia for four one-day matches will be in line for places in the team. It will be interesting to see who will get the nod of the selectors.
The batting department needs beefing up, and players like Gavin Ewing and Alester Maregwede will be hoping to get picked on the basis of their first-class experience and in the wake of batsmen like Dion Ebrahim and Vusumuzi Sibanda not getting runs in Bangladesh.
If the selectors strictly use the current performance selection yardstick, young batsmen like Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Kudakwashe Samunderu and Craig Ervine might be thrown into the fray.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Cricket has released the itinerary for the one-month tour of Zimbabwe by the Bangladesh “A” side. All the fixtures, three four-day matches and five one-day ones, will be played at three venues: BAC and Queens in Bulawayo and Kwekwe Sports Club in Kwekwe.
Bangladesh “A” arrive next Thursday and the first match, a four-dayer, is at Queens starting on February 12. The matches between the two reserve sides from Test cricket’s youngest nations is designed to help the players acquire initial experience before they make it into the senior international arena.