It’s not the type of cricket Bulawayo fans would have been craving for, but at least it’s some cricket and it could yet produce the sparks expected as Zimbabwe engage Afghanistan in a five-match One-Day-International (ODI) series starting today.
Bulawayo has been lamenting lack of international cricket at Queens Sports Club in the last couple of years, but it seems their problem is everybody’s problem now with tours coming few and far between even in the capital.
However, fans might actually witness proper competitive cricket in this series and it might prove to be nowhere near a Sunday stroll for the hosts. The tourists are determined to use this rare opportunity to show they are worth a fuss.
Everybody in the lower rungs seems intent on proving they are better than Zimbabwe, even though they always fail in that regard.
Local players would be well aware of the threat that Afghanistan, ranked 11th in ODI cricket and one place below Zimbabwe, can cause.
If Zimbabwe were to lose any match or the series, it would be an upset likely to fan the fires of nagging doubts over Zimbabwe’s capability at the top of the game.
At a time tours are being cancelled with frightening frequency with only Bangladesh and associate members desperate to play Zimbabwe, Brendan Taylor’s men cannot afford to give other powerhouse any reason to decline to make the trip to Zimbabwe.
This tour (against Afghanistan) is as important as any other.
While Zimbabwe always sees the need to prove a point against the doubters among the stronger nations, they will have to prove themselves again against the lesser nations such as Afghanistan.
Every loss for Taylor’s men triggeres questions about Zimbabwe’s Test status, no matter the format.
Afghanistan has proved over the years that they are a worthy opponent. They are ranked above Ireland who have been pushing over the years to overtake past Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe will be rusty, but they will have to hit the ground running as there is no room for complacency.
Having last played international cricket at the ICC World T-20 and ODI cricket when they hosted Pakistan nine months ago, they may not be fluent from the onset.
Not much has changed for Zimbabwe who warmed themselves up with domestic cricket while some of the players travelled overseas to play club cricket during the international break, but its cricket hardly good nick enough to keep them in good nick for international levels.
For Zimbabwe this will be a warm up series ahead of the tougher prospect of a Test match and an ODI series against South Africa before a tri-series with the same team and Australia.
Coach Taylor, who scored 148 runs in the ODI series against Pakistan, will look to return with more runs in this one.
The series presents Zimbabwe with a chance to gain confidence ahead of the more daunting prospect and a five-nil series white wash could provide just that.
Former Captain Elton Chigumbura is looking to hit the 3 000-run mark and what an opportunity for him.
Coach Andy Waller has said this series will be important for Zimbabwe in as much as it gives a window to try out different bowling combinations ahead of the tougher challenges ahead.
Tendai Chatara, Brian Vitori and Tinashe Panyangara all played well against Pakistan and will be looking to perfect their seaming ahead of South Africa. Prosper Utseya will be hoping to spin Zimbabwe to glory.