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Zimbabwe face tough SA tour

THE spotlight once again falls on the Zimbabwe national cricket team as they embark on a tough tour of South Africa, starting with a Pro20 international against the hosts in Bloemfontein tonight.

The second MTN 20 over-game will be played at Kimberley on Sunday before the two nations square up for a three match Standard Bank One-Day-International series as both teams put their final threading ahead of the International Cricket Council World Cup in Asia next year.
So much has happened in Zimbabwe since the two southern African neighbours squared off last year in an ODI series won 2-0 by South Africa.
Alan Butcher has taken over from Walter Chawaguta as coach while all-rounder Elton Chigumbura took over as captain from Prosper Utseya.
But the return of veteran batsman Grant Flower is with no doubt the talking point of this series, which will be the last for Zimbabwe before the World Cup.
Flower’s inclusion in the team has added vital experience to a side that is  determined and talented, but lacking the kind of knowledge the batsman possesses.
He is a veteran of 219 ODIs with 40 half centuries and six centuries to his name, having made his debut in 1992.
For South Africa, the captaincy has changed hands in the T20 team with Graeme Smith making way for Johan Botha. Smith remains part of the team and will be lining up against Zimbabwe in tonight’s Pro20 match.
The last time the two teams met  Zimbabwe was almost entirely reliant on spin attack; an improvement in the fast bowling resources will this time add a different dimension to this series.
Rainsford Edward, Shingirai Masakadza and Christopher Mpofu will be hoping to bruise the South African batting line up and they have since been promised more overs by the captain.
Chigumbura has promised that Zimbabwe will be more aggressive this time around as they seek a win.
“We are looking forward to this tour; as underdogs we have nothing to lose. We will be playing aggressive cricket in comparison to our previous tours,” Chigumbura told the media upon arrival in South Africa.
“Pro20 cricket is about who is the better team on the day, the uncertainty of this format is what makes it so exciting. When a team plays Pro20 cricket, the outcome can never be set in stone and the margin of an upset becomes wider. The key is to focus for all 20 overs,” he noted.
Pro20 cricket almost always produces excitement which is mainly lynch pinned on the fast paced nature of the game and fans will be expecting something much more than pedestrian this evening.
Success against South Africa will not be easy for the touring Zimbabwe side, but not impossible.
In the first of the two ODIs last year Zimbabwe had a good batting outing, when chasing an imposing total of 295 they managed 250, thanks to a solid batting display by wicketkeeper-batsman Tatenda Taibu who remained undefeated at 103 while Stuart Matsikenyere made 86.
Taibu, who was to score a half century in the second ODI, is back in South Africa again expecting to continue his good form after another good batting display against Ireland last week.
But today’s match marks a new beginning as the two teams square up for this format of the game for the  first time.
Zimbabwe has enjoyed some  success in the 20 over-game and registered a famous victory against mighty Australia at the T20 World Cup hosted by South Africa.
Zimbabwe went on to beat Australia again in a warm up match ahead of this year’s World Cup for the shortest version of the game.


Kevin Mapasure

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