Zimbabwe cricket’s unbridled downward spiral continued after the national team gave Bangladesh an unassailable 2-0 lead and a series win in the second Test in Kulna on Friday.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
Bangladesh were clinical in their execution, turning on the power to dispatch the visitors by 162 runs in a match that had a draw written all over it, to wrap up the three match series with a game to spare.
Alarm bells should be ringing for coach, Stephen Mangongo, who cut a clueless figure and could only watch as his ship was sinking in his first Test series in charge away from home considering the amount of work and effort that has been put to make sure the team performs against lowly ranked Bangladesh.
Mangongo could be ruing the unpopular decision to axe one of the country’s best players of spin, Sean Williams, as his charges seemed to have no reprieve against Bangladeshi spinners.
His resume continues to deteriorate by the day for someone who has been in the Zimbabwe cricket coaching structures for a long time as he is yet to win a Test match since his rise to power in July this year.
Apart from a famous win over Australia, the former Mountaineers gaffer has only two ODI wins, against minnows Afghanistan in 14 encounters, three of which are Tests.
With the latest defeat in mind, the biggest question is: Does Mangongo have solutions needed to put a stop to Zimbabwe’s dismal showing in the field of play?
Under Mangongo, Zimbabwe has failed to put up a comprehensive and complete performance in all the three cricket departments, at the same time playing ultra-negative cricket.
When batsmen perform, the bowlers grab the opportunity to undo the batters’ labour, if the batters falter the bowlers, more often than not, improve their performance and when the top order sets a solid platform; the lower order crumbles like a deck of cards.
Considering the manner with which the team rolled over in the first two matches, it is difficult to see them bouncing back to win the third and final Test which is barely three days away in Chittagong.
Clearly Bangladesh’s spin wizardry of Shakib Al Hasan, Taijul Islam and Jubair Hussein has haunted the Southern African visitors as they shared 18 of Zimbabwe’s 20 wickets in the second Test, with Shakib claiming 10 wickets.
Batsmen who offered meaningful resistance were Hamilton Masakadza, who compiled a personal best score of 158 and Regis Chakabva, 101, also his best score, as the two batters posted a record seventh wicket partnership of 147 runs, in the first innings of the second Test.
Sikandar Raza Butt who scored Zimbabwe’s only half century in Dhaka miserably failed to stamp his authority in Kulna managing 11 and 9 in two innings while other batters such captain Brendan Taylor, Elton Chigumbura, Sean Ervine and debutant Brian Chari were mediocre.
Zimbabwe’s bowlers bowled in patches with Tendai Chatara, Elton Gumbura and Tinashe Panyangara doing a splendid job in the first innings while spinners Malcom Waller as well as debutant Natsai Mushangwe put up polished effort in the second innings.
Ironically, Zimbabwe has made grueling efforts to condition the team for subcontinent conditions that favour spin bowling, with a special spin camp in Triangle but all the work seem to have come to naught as the batting line up religiously struggled against the Tigers spinners.
The sad story of Zimbabwe cricket is that while Bangladesh played according to their own strengths, the local team also played to the Tigers’ merits hence the two consecutive defeats.
While Zimbabwe amplified the difficulty in containing the Bangladeshi spinners and diverted all the energies to practice playing against spin, the subcontinent side was busy working on their abilities as well as creating a complete team hungry for success.
The third and final Test is set for Wednesday and Mangongo’s lads are hard at work trying to learn to play spin in the subcontinent and it is easy to predict the outcome judging from the first two Tests.
Many may think it is just about picking a winning team or practising to play spin but Mangongo may need to do more to change the fortunes of an undoubtedly talented Zimbabwe team in Bangladesh.