SO ZIMBABWE open against Nepal on Sunday at Harare Sports Club with hopes of securing a spot in the prestigious World Cup, needing to get over the massive disappointment of the last 50-over qualification tournament they hosted in 2018.
The Zimbabweans beat minnows Oman by 28 runs on Tuesday at Takashinga in a match they leaked runs at the death overs and failed to make inroads in the middle overs. In view of that, it would seem like Zimbabwe’s chances in these qualifiers are again uncertain.
After Zimbabwe posted 367-6, Oman did well to reach 339 in a spirited chase. It’s a cause for concern for the tournament hosts.
However, with a squad boasting a mix of experienced veterans and promising young talent, Zimbabwe still holds a fighting chance.
Bowling has been a cause for concern for Zimbabwe in recent matches. Their inability to contain the opposition in the death overs and the lack of penetration in the middle overs has exposed a vulnerability in their attack.
Head coach Dave Houghton & Co will need to address these issues promptly and come up with effective strategies to counter such situations: tightening up their lines and lengths, focusing on disciplined bowling, and working on variations will be crucial in avoiding a repeat of their previous performance.
On the batting front, Zimbabwe have shown glimpses of brilliance. Their top-order batsmen have displayed the ability to build partnerships and set a solid foundation. However, they will need to convert their starts into big scores and accelerate the run-rate when necessary. A more aggressive and positive approach in the middle overs will help them post competitive totals and put pressure on the opposition.
While the team’s overall performance might have been a bit shaky, there are a few players who have consistently shown promise and could play a pivotal role in Zimbabwe’s campaign. One such player to watch out for is Sikandar Raza. The experienced all-rounder has been a backbone of the Zimbabwean batting line-up for the past few seasons now. His ability to stabilise the innings and accelerate when need be, makes him a vital cog in the team’s batting unit.
Another player who has caught the attention of many is the young all-rounder Wessly Madhevere. With his impressive performances in recent matches, he has shown great potential with both bat and ball. Madhevere’s ability to contribute in both departments makes him a valuable asset and a player to watch out for in the tournament.
Clive Madande, Innocent Kaia and the uncapped Joylord Gumbie are also exciting talents to watch out for, as shown in the recent warm-up series against Pakistan Shaheens. They all managed to score runs during the one-day series and a lot is expected of them if Zimbabwe is going to have a chance to progress to the Super Six stage of the qualifiers.
In the bowling department, Blessing Muzarabani’s pace and accuracy has been a bright spot for Zimbabwe. His ability to extract bounce and movement from the pitch has troubled a good number of batsmen. Muzarabani will be key in providing early breakthroughs, and containing the opposition’s scoring rate. Alongside Muzarabani, the experience of Richard Ngarava will play a vital role in leading the bowling attack and making crucial breakthroughs.
However, for Zimbabwe to have a successful campaign, it will equire collective contributions from the entire team. Consistency in performance and the ability to adapt quickly to changing match situations will be crucial. The team needs to work on their fielding as well, ensuring they don’t miss any crucial chances and remain sharp throughout the tournament.
Assessing Zimbabwe’s chances after their struggles against Oman, it is evident that there are areas that require immediate attention and improvement. Of course, one more tournament warm-up match, against Scotland on Thursday, would have already been played by the time you read this piece. So we might be having a new talking point ahead of Sunday’s opener against the Nepalese. But for now, overall, this is my take. I do not imagine that a lot will considerably change ahead of the big tournament, from what I have previewed in this guest column for The NewsHawks.
Of course, cricket is a game of uncertainties, and one poor performance does not define a team’s potential. If Zimbabwe can learn from their mistakes, rectify their weaknesses, and display their true capabilities – they still have a fighting chance to make it through the qualifiers.
In conclusion, I do maintain that Zimbabwe is faced with a big task to qualify. Their recent performance with the ball against Oman highlighted areas of concern that need to be addressed. However, with experienced players like Craig Ervine, Sikandar Raza and Sean
Williams leading the way – along with the emergence of promising talents like Madhevere, Joylord Gumbie and Clive Madande – Zimbabwe still possesses the firepower to compete with the best.
It will ultimately come down to their ability to learn from their mistakes, adapt quickly, and deliver consistent performances throughout the tournament.
*Guest columnist Joseph Madyembwa, better known as Jonty, is a UK-based former Zimbabwe national team performance analyst and Mashonaland Eagles franchise team manager. Jonty is currently undertaking a PhD programme at Loughborough University’s Institute of Sports Business.