ZIMBABWE “A” lost the one-day series against Pakistan “A” after going down by 82 runs at the CFX Academy on Monday. The result meant that Pakistan “A” won b
oth the four-day and one-day series.
Pakistan came with a young and exuberant team that seemed to enjoy every minute of their southern African safari after coming to Zimbabwe via Namibia where they played matches against the desert country’s national team. The fervor of representing their country’s second team was plain in the Pakistani players, and their dedication and impatience to earn maiden national team call-ups on their performances in Zimbabwe was fiercely solid.
The Zimbabwe selectors are likely to look much into the results when assessing performances ahead of selection. The Pakistan “A” side currently ranks as one of the best “A” sides among the Test-playing nations, and maybe a better side than the Bangladesh Test side.
As has been the case when Zimbabwe lose, the batting continued to be the major letdown in the one-dayers against Pakistan “A”. Apart from Charles Coventry in the second match at Harare Sports Club, no batsman was able to stay in form once they reached the 30s or 40s.
“The batting has been a problem. We had guys getting in and getting out, our top order was not able to lead from the front,” said national selectors convenor Macsood Ebrahim.
“Our bowling has been very good though. The seamers, in particular Blessing Mahwire, showed a lot of consistency and so did the leg spinner Keith Dabengwa. This is the kind of consistency that we want. Guys should score big hundreds and take wickets, and they will be picked,” he added.
But talk of performance as we may, the issue of passion and national pride in representing one’s country remains a big factor at the end of it all.
Selector Richie Kaschula says players who are picked for the national team should play for the Zimbabwe “badge and blazer” first before the cheque.
“The honour of playing for your country comes first. You have to be proud that you are one of the chosen few to be representing Zimbabwe. And you are also not playing for yourself. The people of Zimbabwe require that you perform. You have to stand up and be counted,” he said.
“When the going gets touch you’ve got to fight. Too often we take the easy route, the easy option of getting out of tough contests by getting hit by the opposition batsmen or giving away wickets cheaply. Selection is purely on performance, and if one wants to play for this country, they have to prove beyond any doubt that they can go to the top and stay there,” said Kaschula.
Bowlers who emerged with noteworthy performances for Zimbabwe “A” include pace bowler Mahwire, medium pacer Tawanda Mupariwa, who set Zimbabwe “A” for victory in the second match when taking two wickets inside five overs before he left the attack due to a nagging injury. Midlands paceman Anthony Ireland also came right in the last two matches, and was particularly inspired in the final match at the Zimbabwe Cricket Academy when his late four-wicket haul halted the rising Pakistan “A” run rate, and preventing the tourists from getting a huge score.
Batting-wise, Coventry’s century in the second match, the only one for Zimbabwe “A” in the whole series, was much-needed for the Matabeleland wicketkeeper, while Stuart Matsikenyeri, who has been struggling with his form, did himself a lot of good with a solid 50 in the second match.
Dabengwa’s all-round ability was on show again in the final match, scoring 33 runs in the gloom against a hostile Pakistan “A” attack. Skipper Stuart Carlisle was also in the thirties.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe A’s Mahwire this week travels to Cape Town to have his bowling action cleared by an International Cricket Council team.
Mahwire’s action will be examined on laboratory machines and computers.