Why Ireland defeat is disastrous for Zimbabwe

IT IS possible that it could come down to net run rate and other calculations to determine who progresses to the World Cup proper from Group B of the preliminary rounds.

Independent Sport View with Kevin Mapasure

Yet it should never have come to that really for Zimbabwe which, like Bangladesh, they should have freewheeled through to the Super Ten of the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty-20 underway in Bangladesh.

The reality is that qualification may not even be achieved and how embarrassing that a team of Zimbabwe’s status, one of only 10 Test-playing nations, could fall so early in this tournament. The calculator, Zimbabwe’s biggest hope, can only come into play if Netherlands does itself and Brendan Taylor’s men the favour of beating Ireland who have assumed favourites’ status.

Of course, Zimbabwe needs to register a win against winless United Arab Emirates, but nothing can be taken for granted in this format especially after Zimbabwe lost to Hong Kong in a warm-up encounter.

Ireland made representations about their ability to play at such stages and they will get vindication by progressing to the full member party at the expense of Zimbabwe.

Never mind that Ireland have got the experience of Ed Joyce —who once represented England — and the duo of William Porterfield and Kevin Obrien, or that they once beat England; it remains indisputable that Zimbabwe should have brushed aside opponents in this preliminary round and claim their place among the best 10.

The first two matches that Zimbabwe has played in were thrilling for the Bangladesh neutrals, but nerve-wrecking for the nations involved — the match against Netherlands was certainly not for faint- hearted Zimbabweans.

Both matches came down to the very last ball with Zimbabwe failing to force a super over against Ireland, losing by three wickets.

They managed to avoid a super over in the match against Netherlands, winning by five wickets. In the defeat to Ireland Brendan Taylor missed a run-out chance as the Irish batsmen scampered for the line, but against the Dutch Vusi Sibanda made sure Zimbabwe crossed the line in some style despite the nerves preceding the final blow.

Sibanda coolly and calmly heaved a mighty maximum which disappeared together with Netherlands’ minimal hopes for a win, as the Zimbabwean camp and fans watching on TV back home heaved a huge sigh of relief.

It was a mighty scare that would never have been if Zimbabwe had been more clinical.

Captain Taylor, who missed out on another half-ton, summed it up after the match when he said: “We needed that win but we made it very difficult for ourselves. We shouldn’t have finished it in the last over. We were really sloppy and we made it a lot more difficult than it should have been.”

Never mind that the Netherlands have a somewhat select team composed of players from at least three Test playing nations, Zimbabwe should never labour against such sides.

At least not now.

But the Zimbabwean players, having spent many months engaged in boardroom squabbles over money, only dusted the bats, pads and balls with a couple of weeks to go before their first match.

Their rustiness shows: they are devoid of confidence, even against weak sides — the defeat to Hong Kong in the warm-ups still reverberates and until they qualify to the tournament proper it will remain a point of reference.

International cricket is not about just showing up; associate nations are working hard day and night, in the cold and in searing heat to try and close the gap with the full members.

For a team that is always under the microscope Zimbabwe can ill-afford the performances we have witnessed thus far because of their boomerang effects.

Pakistan can lose to Zimbabwe in a Test match and life goes on, but if Zimbabwe loses to Ireland and falls early in the preliminary rounds of this tournament their Test status comes into question.

Today the team will play what should be the easiest of their Group matches against the United Arab Emirates where they do not only need to win but must do so by a wide margin to retain any chance of progressing if the Dutch manage to account for the Irish.

The two results beg the question: Has Zimbabwe regressed or have the associate nations made up ground on the top sides?

If Zimbabwe fails to progress more serious questions will be posed.