Moments after he hit a six off the last ball to give Zimbabwe to a crucial five-wicket win over the Netherlands on Wednesday (March 19), Vusi Sibanda tweeted, “Never an easy situation to be in. But what a relief when all goes well!!!!!”
While the result kept Zimbabwe’s hopes of qualifying for the Super 10 round alive, Sibanda and his teammates will be aware that they are only in partial control of their fate. Not only do they have to beat the United Arab Emirates by a convincing margin at the Sylhet Divisional Stadium on Friday (March 21), they will be hoping that Ireland, to whom they lost in the last ball, have a rare off day and slip up against the Netherlands. That would tie Zimbabwe, Ireland and The Netherlands on points at the top of the Group B table, and one team would go through on the basis of a superior net run rate.
However, Zimbabwe cannot afford to worry about the permutation and combinations; they have to focus on doing certain things right.
In the game against Ireland, four top-order batsmen failed to convert starts into big scores. It proved to be costly at the end as Brendan Taylor’s 59 and Tinashe Panyangara’s four-wicket haul went in vain.
In their next game, Zimbabwe reduced the Netherlands to 35 for 4 but failed to close things as the fielding standards dropped. They made heavy weather of their chase of 141 as except for Hamilton Masakadza and Taylor, once again the top order failed. Had it not been for some industrious batting by Sean Williams and Sibanda’s decisive blow, Zimbabwe would have been left with bruised egos.
From Dave Houghton to Andy Flower, Zimbabwean cricket has seen better days. A variety of reasons has led the team to its current predicament, but that does not take away the manner in which Taylor has led the team in the tournament so far.
He has put a brave face on it and been brutally honest in his post-match analysis. A big believer in taking the positives out of any situation, Taylor would have regrouped the unit and made them believe that they have enough in them for one more big effort, which, if things work out in their favour, could provide yet another trigger point to resurrect the country’s dwindling cricket graph.
If Zimbabwe’s story has been that from optimism to despair, UAE’s journey has been the opposite. The last time they were up against a Test-playing nation was in 2008 when they participated in the Asia Cup in Pakistan.
Aaqib Javed, UAE’s coach, has worked hard to help the team make it to this tournament and qualify for the 2015 World Cup. While they are not in the race for a Super 10 spot, the game against Zimbabwe gives them a chance to make a strong statement.
For them to make this opportunity count, the batsmen must put up a fight. They batted first in their previous two games, but none of batsmen has been able to score a fifty so far. There has simply not been enough on the board for the bowlers to be able to influence the proceedings.
If UAE could be inspired to reverse this trend, then it would go a long way in convincing the authorities back home that faster a central contract system is in place, the better it would be for all concerned.
Zimbabwe: Brendan Taylor (capt, wk), Tendai Chatara, Elton Chigumbura, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Timycen Maruma, Hamilton Masakadza, Shingi Masakadza, Natsai Mushangwe, Tinashe Panyangara, Vusi Sibanda, Sikandar Raza, Prosper Utseya, Brian Vitori, Malcolm Waller, Sean Williams.
UAE: Khurram Khan (capt), Ahmed Raza, Amjad Ali (wk), Amjad Javed, Faizan Asif, Manjula Guruge, Kamran Shazad, Moaaz Qazi, Swapnil Patil (wk), Rohan Mustafa, Rohit Singh, Shaiman Anwar, Sharif Asadullah, Vikrant Shetty, Shadeep Silva.