LONG tournaments are often quite complicated, they tend to get topsy-turvy around the middle to the end, and Zimbabwe could find this out today in their crucial World Cup Qualifiers Super Six opener against Ireland at Harare Sports Club.
By Enock Muchinjo
During this time of the year, Harare Sports Club conditions suit what the Irish are used to, and an added advantage to them is that Zimbabwe have played all their games prior to the Super Six in Bulawayo — where the Chevrons were based for their Group B assignments.
On a seaming wicket with plenty of moisture, runs have certainly not been galore at Harare Sports Club, making a score of around 240 quite competitive on that surface.
Zimbabwe, therefore, needs to change the manner they bat, batting first or second.
The hosts’ top-order has been a cause for great concern: too many wickets tumbling upfront.
The ideal situation, coming to Harare, is to have wickets in hand in order to capitalise when the ball is old — giving Sikandar Raza and company in the middle-order chance to finish off with a flourish towards the end.
The Chevrons, given this scenario, will be best advised against looking to attack all-out early on.
Losing wickets upfront while the ball is still new and seaming around, nearly cost the Chevrons dearly in the pool stage, needing to stage dramatic comebacks to beat Afghanistan by two runs and then drawing with Scotland in that pulsating tie on Monday.
A conservative approach, of course, does not suit someone like the Zimbabwe opener Cephas Zhuwao, who will not be allowed to play his natural attacking game if the Ireland seamers — and they have the ability to do so — constantly bowl a fuller length and manage to extract some swing.
Zhuwao and fellow opener Solomon Mire will also look at how the West Indies superstar and master-blaster Chris Gayle has struggled to score at Harare Sports Club, having pummeled the bowlers into submission at Old Hararians, and think they need to change how they negotiate the tricky early overs against a very good Ireland pace attack.
Bowling-wise, at Harare Sports Club, Zimbabwe’s seamers are going to be required to play a big role and in conditions like these, one wishes someone like Tinashe Panyangara was around to provide the direction in hitting the correct lengths and areas.
While men like Kyle Jarvis and Tendai Chatara can let it rip on their day and have previously enjoyed success at Harare Sports Club — and then also adding into the equation the impressive young Blessing Muzarabani — the temptation of an all-out pace attack as main weapon can backfire terribly if the bowling isn’t quite disciplined and Ireland’s batsmen get hint of width to work with.
Yet Harare Sports Club is still unlike Queens Sports Club — which can be so slow, low and spinning.
Captain Graeme Cremer’s variation of flight is very handy, but when the conditions are not exactly assisting, it will take something very special to pose a real threat to the Irish batters at Harare Sports Club.
Otherwise, the likes of Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza will be called on to deliver with quicker and straighter deliveries in Zimbabwe’s spin department.