FINAL warm up matches for Zimbabwe and South Africa triggered debate on whether they gave insight into what can be expected of the two nations at the ICC World Cup that comes alive in New Zealand and Australia tomorrow.
Neighbours Zimbabwe and South Africa clash at Seddon Park in Hamilton, New Zealand, on Sunday on the back of contrasting fortunes in their final warm up matches.
Dave Whatmore’s Zimbabwe pulled a surprise with a seven-wicket crushing win against Sri Lanka and the Proteas, one of the tournament favourites, suffered a heavy 134-run defeat to a brutal New Zealand side.
South Africans have been quick to dismiss the setback as an unimportant result which does not have a bearing on their team’s prospects ahead of the tournament proper.
All-rounder JP Duminy said that the result, while disappointing, would not impact on the Proteas’ World Cup chances and the team would be better for the experience.
“We are not too fazed by the result,” said Duminy.
“It was about getting time out in the middle and getting some overs under the belt. It (win) will be a big confidence booster for Zimbabwe but I’m not going to read too much into it. We know that match intensity is different from warm up match intensity,” he said.
On the other hand former Zimbabwe all-rounder Dirk Viljoen said the warm up games have given important indicators of the tournament.
“To start with, nobody goes out to bowl badly and nobody goes out to bat poorly,” said Viljoen.
“People have said that these are only warm up games and we should not read much into them, but I am reading a lot from the matches. I am not saying that Zimbabwe will beat South Africa, but what we have learnt is that Sunday is going to be a high scoring and competitive match. Our main batsmen have peaked at the right time, and they are getting the runs.
“On the other hand South Africa’s batsmen who got big scores against the West Indies recently suddenly lost form as soon as they got to New Zealand.”
Viljoen, who played 53 ODIs for Zimbabwe, said the warm up matches would have played a significant role in building Zimbabwe’s confidence and might affect South Africa’s.
“Zimbabwe played a full-strength Sri Lankan side and managed to chase down 280 with ease and that’s a good sign. After the Sri Lanka game I am confident that they can cause a few upsets along the way and Sunday might just be one of those days.
“I think there is no excuse for Zimbabwe to lose to the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Ireland after that performance. The warm up matches have told us that Zimbabwe can cause a few upsets while we have also learnt South Africa can be beaten.”
He however expressed reservations over Zimbabwe’s bowling department.
“I am a bit concerned about our bowling; they (bowlers) might just be a damage control unit and with those smaller pitches in New Zealand it may prove to be tough for them.”
The two nations clashed in five ODIs in 2014 in Zimbabwe, with South Africa winning all matches.