Enock Muchinjo in Pretoria
AMAZING how a heavy defeat and hard words can do.
After a thumping nine-wicket defeat at the hands of the Sou
th African National Academy last Friday and disapproval from the management team, the Zimbabwe cricket select side bounced back to win the remaining three matches on this practice tour to South Africa, two of them quite comfortably, and the other in breathtaking fashion.
In light of Bangladesh’s ODI tour to Zimbabwe, which begins with a weekend double-header at Harare Sports Club tomorrow and Sunday, Zimbabwe needed to build confidence and to garner match-situation practice. They got both, and it remains to be seen if the players will ultimately put what they learnt at the High Performance Centre to maximum use against Bangladesh’s Tigers.
The Zimbabweans took the nine-wicket defeat last Friday in their stride, beating the Highveld Lions Academy by seven wickets on Sunday. Having bowled out for 165 a Lions side that included Zimbabweans, spinner Tinashe Ruswa and pace bowler Ian Nicolson, openers Chamu Chibhabha (55) and Vusi Sibanda (55) guided Zimbabwe to victory. The groundwork was laid by skipper and offspinner Prosper Utseya, who rocked the Lions batting with 4-25 from his 10 overs.
Ziimbabwe faced the National Academy again on Monday, and witnessed a delightful century by Hamilton Masakadza — an unbeaten 118 — to help Zimbabwe to a competitive 284-6 inside the allotted 50 overs. Brendan Taylor chipped in with 44 runs. Zimbabwe’s fielding, which was the only blemish on the day, was sluggish, allowing the National Academy to come close of snatching a second win of their more internationally experienced opponents. But needing 12 runs to win from the final over and with three wickets in hand and Zimbabwe unable to use pace due to fading light, Masakadza held his nerve to restrict the Academy with his leg break spin.
Then on Wednesday they played their fourth match, and the third against the National Academy. Zimbabwe bowled, dismissing the National Academy for 153 runs inside 44 overs, as off-spinner Matsikenyeri and medium pacer Piet Rinke took three wickets each. Zimbabwe were home by six wickets, Taylor again scoring 44 and Matsikenyeri 42.
Masakadza, Taylor, Sibanda and Matsikenyeri are the batsmen in form for Zimbabwe, and the team’s success against Bangladesh will rest on their ability to carry that form into the all-important matches. In attack, Utseya has bowled dependably as ever. It is the pace strike bowlers who have to pull up their socks. Tawanda Mupariwa did not give too much away, but will be looking to contribute with more wicket-taking performances. With Edward Rainsford and Anthony Ireland expected to arrive Harare yesterday, more options will be available for the home side.
Zimbabwe coach Kevin Curran believes his side is much prepared to face Bangladesh after the games in Pretoria.
“We started off a bit rusty,” he said. “We had a team meeting after the first match. We discussed areas which needed to be ironed out. It showed in the next game against the Lions and in the other matches. I think we improved in all areas and proved that we have the quality.”