IT’S five days since the national cricket team thrilled fans by spanking South Africa’s Proteas in a Twenty20 tri-series final, torching wild celebrations and abundant optimism about the future of the national game.
The team replicated its super start to the international season last term when it played cricket of intensity that Bangladesh failed to match in both the Test and One-Day-Internationals.
However, it is important that we do not let prolonged celebrations blind us from some glaring and crucial weaknesses which this series exposed. Let us instead focus on our deficiencies which should be fixed now before we venture into another World Cup, a potential source of disappointment if we allow ourselves to get carried away with the triumph against the Proteas.
We should run a fine tooth comb through our win to find every fault no matter how small and fix it, if we are to avoid heartbreak. The fact is our team is still trying to find its footing and we would do well not to exert excessive pressure on the inconsistent team.
There are many reasons for optimism: Hamilton Masakadza’s four half-centuries scoring 267 runs at an average of 66,75 in five matches, as well as Brendan Taylor’s 163 at an average of 40,75.
On the bowling front, Richard Muzhange’s wicket-taking abilities and his arrival on the international scene holds lots of promise. But it was Chris Mpofu and Kyle Jarvis who shared 13 wickets between them that also got fans believing that more success is on the horizon.
But let us not forget that we have also seen many performances from this team that have not been easy on the eye after similar promise.
There are areas of concern. Our middle-order paucity was exposed in the series. Outside the top three — Masakadza, Taylor and Vusi Sibanda — nobody else stood out for performing with the bat. Stuart Matsikenyere tried with a top score of 27 followed by 22, so did Graeme Cremer but it was just not enough.
Elton Chigumbura was out of form and managed just six runs in three innings, while Craig Ervine played a one-ball duck to add to eight. Questions will thus continue to be asked as to why Charles Coventry, with all his merits and potential, was overlooked in this format.
It is no coincidence that Zimbabwe started this international season as brightly as they did last year after putting much time in camp. Preparations are important and after coach Alan Butcher gave his team 10 days’ rest, they should come back prepared to work even harder.
South Africa’s captain and coach, Hashim Amla and Gary Kirsten respectively, noted that Zimbabwe’s intensity could not be matched. If that is one weapon we can use, let us perfect it ahead of our next Test against Pakistan at the end of the year.
When all is said, the final in a tournament in which we beat Bangladesh and the Proteas once each,stands out as the best performance by the team. South Africa, even without AB Divilliers and fast-bowler Dale Steyn, sent out a strong team. They used an A side together with Australia A this time last year and we lost all matches.
Zimbabwe can expect a South African backlash at the World Cup in Sri Lanka, but if we can conjure up Sunday’s intensity and believe in ourselves we stand a chance of extending our dominance over the Proteas to two matches.
All due praise then to the boys, the technical team and selectors, but we still want to see the middle order coming to the party so that we get batsmen in the area who have the capability of finishing off matches, or rebuild innings after bad starts.
Hopefully Taibu will soon recover from his finger fracture as his experience is also vital to the team.