After squandering a great opportunity to win the third one-day international (ODI) series against a Test playing nation, Zimbabwe have now set sights on winning the one-off T20 encounter set for Harare Sports Club this afternoon.
by Munyaradzi Madzokere
The last time they won was against Bangladesh in January 2001.
Following a 38-run defeat that gave visitors New Zealand a 2-1 series triumph, the Dav Whatmore-coached Zimbabwe side will be buoyed by the fact they recorded a famous consolation victory in their last T20 match against cricket giants India at the same venue as the two match series ended in a stalemate.
The win came after the local team had suffered a 3-0 whitewash in the ODI series and they look to draw inspiration from last month’s events to get the team from down under a losing send-off.
Interestingly, New Zealand, ranked 7th on the international T20 cricket rankings compared to Zimbabwe’s 14th position, lost their previous encounter in the shortest version of cricket with a 56-run loss to England in Manchester prior to their visit to Africa.
Mike Hesson’s charges have played just one T20 match in 2015, which explains their low ranking and may prove to be rusty in this version of cricket.
However, the hosts’ T20 record is far from glorious having recorded an odd seven wins in 35 matches since 2006, losing 27 times with one match ending in a tie.
Zimbabwe is pinning hopes on the impressive opening batting partnership of Hamilton Masakadza and the in-form Chamu Chibhabha which has looked imperious in the opening spells.
Chibhabha’s valiant 69 was the star performance when the national cricket team beat India by 10 runs last month.
Spin bowler Graeme Cremer also deserves special mention for his consistent bowling performance of late as he approaches his level best since his comeback to international cricket three months ago.
Cremer should pose a constant threat to New Zealand as he looks to replicate his starring role with the ball against India with a match winning 3/18 figures.
After showing some amazing death bowling abilities in Friday’s defeat, pace bowler Neville Madziva looks set to retain his place in the squad ahead of Christopher Mpofu who was rested in the final ODI series match.
Another spinner John Nyumbu was nothing short of outstanding after getting an opportunity two days ago as his tandem with Cremer and Sean Williams seriously slowed down the visitors’ batting inning while he reaped an invaluable two wickets in the process.
In recent matches, Whatmore’s batting line has looked quite strong and recent performances by Williams and Craig Irvine, who emerged the second highest run getter in the ODI series, are causes for comfort.
New Zealand will be without former captain Ross Taylor who missed the final ODI encounter after suffering an injury in training, but with captain Kane Williamson playing his best cricket, New Zealand can trot to a comfortable win.
Bowlers Ben Wheeler as well as Mitchell McClenaghan, Ish Sodhi and Nathan McCullum have been impressive in Zimbabwe and have proved to be capable match winners for New Zealand.