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Zim on course for knockout stage

Following a relatively comfortable Sean Williams-inspired four-wicket victory over United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the Saxton Oval in Nelson, New Zealand on Friday, Zimbabwe remain on course to reach their knockout stage target at the 2015 ICC World Cup after the first two games.

BY Munyaradzi Madzokere

Zimbabwe has not done much wrong as yet to jeopardise chances of progressing to the next round of the competition with a single win from two matches.

Dav Whatmore’s charges who have exuded an air of confidence in recent matches now seek just two wins from four games against West Indies, Pakistan, Ireland and India respectively.

Kicking off their World Cup quest with a plausible performance in a 62-run loss to in-form neighbours South Africa, Zimbabwe would be pleased that two higher ranked countries, Pakistan and West Indies have started the campaign sluggishly.

“These blokes can play some cricket. I will not be surprised if they cause a few upsets later on in the tournament,” South Africa captain AB de Villiers said of Zimbabwe.

In all earnest, Zimbabwe has a very favourable fixture line-up going forward.

On Tuesday, focus shifts to the next match against two-time World Cup winners West Indies whose confidence is rock bottom following a shock four-wicket defeat to associate nation Ireland in their first encounter of the tournament.

West Indies’ defeat to Ireland not only complicates their chances of going through to the next round, but boosts Zimbabwe’s confidence of causing an upset against the Caribbean Islands team when the they meet.

One would have to track back to November 2007 the touch base with Zimbabwe’s last taste of victory against West Indies in an ODI encounter, the hosts winning by 30 runs with Chamu Chibhabha top-scoring with 73 runs.

While Masakadza starred with the bat against South Africa, with Williams taking the onus against UAE, Zimbabwe may need more than one batting performance since their opponents are a team that is always full of runs should the big hitting Chris Gayle, Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels turn up for batting.

Captain Elton Chigumbura has time and again expressed confidence in the batting line-up.

“The good thing about our team at the moment is that everyone is in a good nick, so we don’t expect just Hamilton [Masakadza] to put up a good performance all the time. The rest of the guys in the squad are capable of doing the same,” he told Reuters ahead of the match against UAE.

True to the captain’s assertion Williams stepped up to the plate and burst the Arabs’ bubble with a calculated 76 not out knock to steer the country to the first win at this year’s global cricket showpiece.
Zimbabwe’s batting has looked potent facing top attack notably New Zealand, Sri Lanka and recently South Africa since Whatmore took over, while they wobbled to the finish line against little known UAE bowlers.

After the Windies, Zimbabwe engages Pakistan next, a team that has been rocked by allegations of unrest and divisions in the dressing room following a 76-run loss to arch enemies India last week.

Before the tournament began, about eight members of the Pakistan team were fined $300 each by the team management for allegedly breaking the curfew, before suffering the humiliating loss to the defending champions.

Media reports suggest that Pakistan field coach was involved in a stormy spat with senior players namely Shahid Afridi, Ahmed Shezad and Umar Akmal in the aftermath of last Sunday’s loss.
In Pakistan, Zimbabwe will face a foe divided against itself, hence the opportunity to pounce and defeat the subcontinent rivals.
Zimbabwe’s penultimate Pool B encounter looks set to be most interesting matchup.

Ireland should be keen on claiming that top-four placing after defeating West Indies and might need nothing short of victory.
For Zimbabwe, it is a must-win encounter as they need just three wins to be guaranteed a place in the knockout stages.

It would be better for Zimbabwe to have secured qualification for the next stage of the competition before the final group match against India.

Zimbabwe can tick the box of stability in the batting department so far, but not so much in the bowling and fielding departments.
However, all that could be required is to play the best cricket on day and win matches.

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