THE Zimbabwe Under-19 cricket team, buoyed by a morale boosting win over Namibia during the warm-up matches, has a perfect opportunity to get their ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup campaign off to a winning start when they face debutants Fiji in their opening Group C match at the MA Aziz Stadium in Chittagong today.
With tougher group matches against England and West Indies to follow, Zimbabwe will be under pressure to win today’s match to entertain any chance of progressing to the Super League stage of the competition underway in Bangladesh.
A convincing win against Fiji will leave Zimbabwe needing to upstage either England or West Indies in their last two group matches to guarantee their progress to the last eight.
Fiji, who are making their ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup debut got their campaign off to a losing start after succumbing to a morale sapping 299-run defeat to England in Chittagong on Wednesday.
Zimbabwe on the other hand will be buoyed by encouraging performances in the two official Under-19 World Cup warm-up matches they played in the run up to the tournament.
The Stephen Mangongo-coached side managed a convincing win against fellow African side Namibia but will also draw encouragement from their performance against pre-tournament favourites Bangladesh albeit a losing cause.
Although the hosts won the match by 63 runs after reaching 284 runs for nine wickets in their 50 overs, Zimbabwe should be inspired by the individual performances by some of their key players.
Promising all-rounder William Mashin-ge recorded a fantastic five-wicket haul during the match while wicketkeeper batsman Ryan Murray stole the limelight with an unbeaten 123. Skipper Brendon Mavuta also hit top form with ball in hand against Namibia, snaring six wickets and will be hoping to continue with the good form against Fiji today.
Meanwhile senior national cricket team coach Dav Whatmore wished good luck to the players taking part in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup saying the tournament could launch several promising careers. “Good luck boys! This could be the beginning of a great career,” said Whatmore in a statement released by the ICC early this week.
“A lot of top cricketers have come through the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup. “The competition will be stiff and will bring out the best in you as players. So go ahead, enjoy the experience and do your country proud!”
The 11th edition of the biennial 16-nation tournament features nine Test-playing nations and seven associate and affiliate members — Afghanistan, Canada, Fiji, Namibia, Nepal, Ireland and Scotland.
Teams have been divided into four groups with the top two in each group advancing to the Super League quarter-finals and the other two qualifying for the Plate Championships.
Brandon Mavuta (captain), Trevor Chibvongodze, Jeremy Ives, Adam Keefe, Kundai Matigimu, William Mashinge, Wesley Madhevere, Rugare Magarira, Sydney Murombo, Ryan Murray (wk), Richard Ngarava, Akshay Patel, Brendan Sly, Shaun Snyder, Milton Shumba.
Coach: Stephen Mangongo.