Monday 6 August 2007

Zim cricket at lowest ebb

Itayi Viriri

March 26, 2000

From The Zimbabwe Standard

ZIMBABWE's unbelievable 35-run loss to the West Indies on the dramatic last day of the historic first cricket Test, must surely rank as one of the most demoralising and disheartening episodes in Zimbabwe's eight years as a Test playing nation.

Having played magnificently for the first four days and restricting the, up until then, beleaguered Windies, Zimbabwe only needed a paltry 99 second inning runs to shock the hosts by winning their inaugural Test match in the Caribbean. With a rejuvenated and seemingly inspired Heath Streak taking an impressive match haul of nine for 72 as Zimbabwe managed to restrict the Calypso Kings to sub 200 scores in both their innings, all Zimbabwe needed was to score a run per over. In simpler terms, Zimbabwe only needed a run for every six balls.

Well, of course it is never that simple in cricket at that level, but to capitulate the way they did, leaves many cricket fans wondering what their side has to do to get out of this slump.

At the time, it looked as if the tourists who were coming from what was definitely a disastrous and hastily forgettable season, were responding to their detractors with a dominating performance against a West Indian side also emerging from internal upheavals.

As the record stands, it was not to be as Zimbabwe was ridiculously skittled out for a measly 63 runs--their lowest ever score in Test and limited overs cricket.

Many local cricket fans must have wished that Zimbabwe's previous lowest score of 102 against South Africa, last November, had been tallied in this chase for 99.

As one wise caller to The Standard suggested, Andy Flower and his charges must have engorged themselves with too much of the rich island cuisine, hence their remarkable domino-like collapse soon after lunch.

It was soon after lunch when Zimbabwe resumed its victory chasing innings precariously at 40 for three, that the seemingly improbable collapse started.

As the Caribbean cricket fans have come to expect, whenever their heroes are in such precarious situations, it was up to the legendary pace duo of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, along with their possible successor, Franklyn Rose, to rise to the challenge and wipe out any premature thoughts of celebration in the minds of the Zimbabwean side.

Walsh, with two for 18, man of the match--Ambrose--with a remarkable three for eight and Rose, with four for 19, wiped out Zimbabwe's middle and lower order as if they were bowling at a high school batting line up.

Even they must have been pleasantly surprised at the final result, hence their summation that it was really a miracle that they were able to turn the match around in such fashion on the last day.

In 1992, in similar fashion, Ambrose and Walsh demolished the South Africans on their first visit to the Caribbean, and six years ago, in their match with England, the latter were skittled out for an incredible 46.

It is interesting to note that all these matches were at Trinidad's Queen's Park Oval.

The Oval being the same ground that saw Trinidad native, Brian Lara, stroke the world record innings of 375.

It was certainly a ground on which the Calypso Kings have had some of their more remarkable and miraculous performances, though the Zimbabweans or the English would be forgiven for not ever wanting to set foot at the Oval ever again. It was certainly a shame that Zimbabwe ended up losing the match after sterling performances with bat and ball, by the skipper and his vice, respectively.

Andy Flower scored an unbeaten 113, nearly half his side's first innings total of 236, whilst Zimbabwe's leading wicket taker, Streak, recorded yet another five wicket haul in the Windies' second innings, giving him a superb match haul of nine wickets.

The performance by the Zimbabwean team must surely underline the country's declining cricket fortunes, and many are now calling for the team to muster fresh inspiration. Something must be done and it must be done now. It's never too late to start rebuilding.

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