After a switch of format finally brought a much-needed change of fortune for a beleaguered Zimbabwe side, it will now aim to clinch a morale-boosting series victory over India on Monday. In three One-Day Internationals in Harare, Zimbabwe was swept aside on each occasion. The malaise that has inflicted Zimbabwean cricket over recent years grew deeper and even the home supporters registered their discontent in audible fashion.
But with a switch to a thee-match Twenty20 series, Zimbabwe has already restored some pride. In the first match on Saturday, Zimbabwe, fueled by an unbeaten half-century from Elton Chigumbura, set a challenging total of 170. It was more than the team had managed in each of its three innings over 50 overs. And this time, unlike in the ODI series, India failed to reel off the required runs, with several batsmen getting themselves in but failing to press home the advantage. In the end, India fell two runs short leaving Zimbabwe to celebrate.
After losing recent series to Afghanistan and Bangladesh and failing to even make it into the Super 10 stage of the World Twenty20 in March, it was a welcome boost and should have achieved captain Graeme Cremer’s objective of winning back some fan support. Cremer and interim coach Makhaya Ntini will be all too aware, though, that the team has only taken a small first step. Victory on Monday, and winning a T20 series of two games or more for the first time in its history, even against an experimental India side, would really be something to cherish.
For India, Saturday’s result should serve as something of a wake-up call. It has been smooth progress for a new-look team so far in Zimbabwe. But as captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the selectors seek players who can supplement, and in some cases replace, the big-names left at home, seeing how they respond to challenges will be key. And Dhoni was less than impressed with what he saw from his side in the first T20 encounter.
“We kept losing wickets,” he said, reports the Indian Express. “Irrespective of the opposition, you have to be at your best. You can’t play with your reputation or playing XI that looks good on paper. I felt we were way off today, both in the bowling and the batting department.”
The match saw Kannaur Lokseh Rahul, who had scored 196 runs in the three ODI matches get out for a duck, with Manish Pandey top-scoring with 48. But Dhoni was particularly disappointed in the efforts of the middle-order.
“What’s important is that they have to grab this opportunity,” he said. “When it comes to the Indian team, we are looking for someone to bat down the order. Because our top-order looks more or less quite settled. Even if you put in a very good performance when it comes to the top-order they will find it very difficult to feature in the first XI.”
Match Time: 7 a.m. EDT
TV Channel: WillowTV
Live Stream: Willow.tv