FOLLOWING the great escape against new rivals Afghanistan on Tuesday, Zimbabwe have renewed optimism in their quest to qualify for the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
By Enock Muchinjo
No doubt, the Afghanistan win was a very important result for the World Cup Qualifiers hosts, given how the Asian side has emerged virtually out of nowhere not only to become some kind of bogey team for the Chevrons, but, in fact, also threatening to overtake and pull miles ahead of Zimbabwean cricket in the same manner one-time punching bag Bangladesh have.
These games though, at least going by early indications and particularly in Zimbabwe’s Bulawayo-based Group B, have defied pre-tournament odds.
In this regard, while beating Afghanistan was thoroughly relieving, Zimbabwe could actually soon realise – as the tournament progresses — that the greatest threat actually lies elsewhere.
No disrespect, but let us for now look beyond tomorrow’s clash with Hong Kong at Queens Sports Club. Hong Kong do have some decent spin bowlers and the team is generally well-coached, but Zimbabwe should overcome them with ease.
The biggest hurdle therefore remaining for Zimbabwe in the pool stage is the vastly-improved Scotland, who lie in wait on Monday at Bulawayo Athletic Club (BAC).
While general sentiment was that Scotland’s opening win over Afghanistan last week did Zimbabwe a favour, the Scottish will definitely not be seeing it that way: they believe they can actually qualify for the World Cup and they are here to do themselves favours, not others.
Although not a strong cricketing nation, Scotland are putting in extra hours of hard work and they can soon become a force to reckon with in world cricket.
They have become more professional in recent times and some of their players have English country cricket experience.
Zimbabwe will have their hands full on Monday, and they know it.
Scotland recorded their first official ODI win over a Test nation by beating Zimbabwe in Edinburgh last June.
The series ended 1-1 after the last game was washed out.
An added advantage for Scotland is that they have played all their games so far at BAC, so they now understand the ground and wicket well.
As for Zimbabwe, they will be playing at BAC for the first time in this tournament and some players in the side have not played there for years.
From a Zimbabwean point of view, there is still plenty left to fight for.