Indians gained the upper hand in day two of their tour match with the Zimbabwe Board XI in Mutare. Zim declared on 294/9 after Ebrahim finally fell for 169, but the Indian batsmen launched into an immediate slogfest, eventually clocking up 365 by close of play for the loss of just 2 wickets (Sehwag 126, Ghambir 126, Dravid 102 not out).
Zimbabwe Board XI got off to a shaky start against Indians on the first day of their 3-day match in Mutare, with Dion Ebrahim making a good case for a return to the squad for the upcoming test series. Ebrahim was 163 not out at close of play, with Dabengwa on 40. Of the seven Zimbabweans out, only Duffin (25) and Williams (10) made ot to double figures, but Ibrahim's innings at least gave Zim some hope at the end of the day. Kumble did most of the damage for the Indians, taking 3 for 42 from 28 overs.
The contract dispute between ZC and the players has rumbled on while I've been away - CricInfo has a number of articles on developments, linked below, while both the Zimbabwe Independent and Herald have reported on the financial terms of the proposed contracts (bear in mind those figures are in Zimbabwe dollars - the official rate is currently around ZW$25,000 to US$1).
In the latest development, it is reported that 30 players, including captain Tatenda Taibu, have signed a petition calling for the removal of Peter Chingoka and Ozias Bvute from Zimbabwe Cricket, identifying them as the people most reponsible for the decline of the game in Zimbabwe - but the petition has not yet been handed to the board due to some players concerns over the wording. The hope is that ZC will not be able to ignore the players if they present a truly united front, but in Zimbabwe anything is possible.
While the contract dispute rumbles on, Zimbabwe Cricket have named a partial squad for the upcoming tests against India. Tatenda Taibu, Heath Streak, Andy Blignaut, Blessing Mahwire, Christopher Mpofu and Prosper Utseya will definitely take part, with the remainder of the squad to be chosen from amongst those playing in the current Zimbabwe Board XI match.
India's Ashish Nehra has meanwhile been flown home with a back injury and will play no part in the series.
There'll be a short break in updates now, with the next update being on the 9th September. Being a one-man site, I'll unfortunately be unable to cover Tuesday's final on the day, but normal service will resume on Friday.
Zimbabwe set a decent target batting first and got off to a flyer, taking early wickets in India's innings, but were unable to capitalise on their start, with India eventually picking up the victory with 11 balls to spare.
Talks between Zimbabwe Cricket's Ozias Bvute and player representative Clive Field over proposed performance-based contracts are due to continue on Monday, with the withdrawal of contracts that had been offered to several players threatening to cause major problems. According to one of the affected players, Stuart Carlisle:
"After we informed Curran late last week about our wish not to play (in Sunday's game), he went to see Bvute to tell him this and our contract offers were immediately taken back. We are therefore out of a job."
Bvute explains ZC's view of the dispute, claiming not to have been vindictive:
"The players expressed views as to what they believed they were worth. Those figures were in excess of their performances. A level one contract is offered on the basis of runs scored and wickets taken, and these players were clearly not performing."
Source: BBC Sport
Personally, I hope this matter is resolved soon. Cricket in Zimbabwe has enough problems at the moment without another players' dispute destroying the progress that has been made in the past few games in turning Zimbabwe from a team that simply couldn't play a game to one that's managed to turn in some good performances in their last two games.
India look set to rest a number of key players for Sunday's game against Zimbabwe, to make sure their best team is available for Tuesday's final against New Zealand. Bowlers Rudra Pratap Singh and Murali Kartik and batsmen Suresh Raina and Venugopala Rao are set to play, with Mohammed Kaif amongst those who look to be rested. Sunday's game is a formality, with Zimbabwe no longer able to reach the final.
Source: BBC Sport
Zimbabwe players have expressed their disappointment with the new performance-based contracts offered by Zimbabwe Cricket, a move which may reignite the players' dispute. It seems a number of other players (Stuart Carlisle, Craig Wishart, Barney Rogers and Neil Ferreira) had been offered central contracts along with Taibu, Streak and Blignaut, but that these offers were withdrawn after Carlisle and Wishart expressed a desire to stand aside for the India test series "in order to give other players more experience". According to Carlisle:
"This could be just as serious for cricket here as the last dispute 18 months ago."
The affected players have agreed to play in Sunday's one-day game against India, but players' representative Clive Field did not rule out the possibility of the two forthcoming Tests against India being cancelled. Speaking to the Press Trust of India, he said:
"Zimbabwe Cricket has given us 14 September as the date by which they should be able to work out on the contentious issues."
Source: BBC Sport
With players' contracts due for renewal from September 1st, Zimbabwe Cricket has reportedly offered central contracts only to Tatenda Taibu, Heath Streak and Andy Blignaut, with 27 other players being offered performance-based prescribed contracts. The hope is that being payed according to on-field performance will act as an incentinve for players to improve. According to a statement issued by Zimbabwe Cricket:
"In keeping with international trends, not all the top players in the country will be given national contracts, which are offered to those players with impeccable records. Only three players - captain Tatenda Taibu, his deputy Heath Streak and Andy Blignaut - have been offered the national contracts."
The plug has also been pulled on a number of fringe benefits as well - accroding to ZC HR manager Wilfred Mukondiwa:
"We are withdrawing most of the benefits that the players enjoyed without performing on the field as we were basically rewarding inefficiency. We want to make selection more competitive so that players can deliver. Our players must now earn as they play and they should be just like football and other sporting professionals who first perform and then enough money to buy cars and other goodies."
The players have not yet accepted the new terms. Speaking to the Zimbabwe Independent, players' representative Clive Field said ZC had communicated to the players that it needed time to draw a legally binding performance clause for the new contracts. The players were however said to be anxious to have the contracts, which expired on Wednesday, renewed.