THE Zimbabwe cricket team woke up on Wednesday morning in Dhaka knowing that their drawn second Test match against Bangladesh could have yielded a better result, but Tatenda Taibu’s men
should not hang their heads down going into the ODI series which started yesterday.
Bangladesh came into the series as favourites and were deserving winners in the end.
Zimbabwe now must look at the positives that came out of the series and start preparing for their next assignments.
With all due respect to Bangladesh, it is only fair to say that the Asian side won because they played an under-strength side. Even when they hammered Zimbabwe by 226 runs in the first Test, the margin of victory did not accurately reflect the level of competition by the Zimbabweans, who provided anxious moments for the Tigers in some sessions. Zimbabwe, needing to bowl out Bangladesh, chasing a target of 276 runs on the last day, left it until late and the home side was happy to walk away with a draw.
Taibu played a sublime innings to notch his maiden Test century (153 runs) and finished with a total of 350 runs having also scored two half-centuries in the series. The 21-year-old skipper’s overall performance showed great maturity as he continues to grow from strength to strength.
The other positive which came out of the series was that the Zimbabwe middle order was able to improvise and put up a few defiant partnerships after the top order batters were dismissed. Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor were particularly impressive and gave Taibu good support throughout the series.
The five-match ODI series started yesterday with Zimbabwe hoping to do a lot better than they did in the Tests. Bangladesh are tipped to win their first ODI series. The young Zimbabwe side needs to summon all the experience they acquired in the 20 ODI’s they have played since April last year.
Not many changes are expected in the Zimbabwe team, with batsman Terrence Duffin hoping to get his first taste of international cricket, while off-spin bowler Prosper Utseya should get some matches after sitting out of the Tests. The seam bowlers should play a vital role. Douglas Hondo showed in the second Test that he can be a real menace, taking a career best 6/46. He will need support from the other medium pacers in the team.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe A side leaves Namibia this week to play two three-day and three limited-over matches against the hosts. Members of the team will be hoping to impress selectors and make the national team for the South Africa tour. Players such as skipper Alester Maregwede, Mark Vermuelen, Gavin Ewing, Blessing Mahwire, stand chances of making the side for South Africa having previously played for Zimbabwe. The 32-year-old medium pace bowler Bryan Strang has also been included in the A side and has a realistic chance of making a comeback to the national side after three years on the sidelines.
The other players in the Kevin Curran coached side are mostly youngsters, and Namibia will be good first class experience for them. After Namibia, Zimbabwe A will also engage Kenya A away and Bangladesh A at home in the next few months. It is important that players get more of these first-class matches before they graduate to the senior team.
Elsewhere, England took a 2-1 lead going into the fifth and final Test against hosts South Africa. England won the first match, but South Africa came back strongly to level the series in the second match before the two rivals settled for a draw in the third Test in Cape Town. South African cricket followers will feel short-changed by their team’s showing on the last day of the fourth Test that ended in Johannesburg on Monday. The Proteas were bowled out needing to bat through the day to avoid defeat.
England will approach the final Test with a psychological advantage over the hosts as they will be playing knowing exactly what they need to do to clinch a famous Test series win.
Next month, Taibu and his team tour South Africa for two Tests and three ODIs. A lot needs to be done if Zimbabwe is going to even offer any resistance to the Proteas mean-machine whose variety of options is enough to intimidate a young side like Zimbabwe. However, there is some hope that some of the “rebel” players currently negotiating with an independent ad hoc committee set up by Zimbabwe Cricket a fortnight ago, might make the side.
Even if some of the experienced players return, South Africa will still prove altogether too powerful for Zimbabwe like they have done in the past, but then, it is everyone’s concern that Zimbabwe field their strongest side again.