Just done a monster update to our Fixtures page, with full schedules for the following series:
Triangular 'A' Series (Australia 'A', South Africa 'A', Zimbabwe XI)
Australia 'A' in Zimbabwe
Bangladesh in Zimbabwe
Pakistan in Zimbabwe
New Zealand in Zimbabwe
That list includes three Test matches - 2 in Bulawayo, 1 in Harare - and I have to say it felt good typing them in.
Zimbabwe's fragile top order batting cracked under pressure once as they crashed to a resounding 10-wicket defeat against New Zealand in their third match at the ICC Cricket World Cup at the Sardar Patel Stadium on Friday. Having been reduced to a shocking 46-5 in the 15th over Zimbabwe faced the prospect of suffering a similar fate to the one which befell co-host nation Bangladesh against the West Indies later in the day but, instead of being bowled out for 58 they recovered well to reach 162 all out. The total was no match for the Black Caps, however, and openers Martin Guptill and Brendan McCullum raced to victory in untroubled and emphatic style with unbeaten scores of 86 and 76 respectively.
Two late withdrawals from the first-choice starting XI set Zimbabwe off on the back foot and an extraordinary umpiring decision against captain Elton Chigumbura made a bad day worse but none of them made a material impact on the result, such was the gulf between the teams on the day.
Chris Mpofu failed to recover from a side strain in time to lead the bowling attack and left handed batsman Sean Williams as well was did not recover from a thumb injury. Tinashe Panyangara was drafted in to replace Mpofu while Reggie Chakabva came in for Williams. Chigumbura, meanwhile, had hopes of digging his team out of early trouble at 46/3 when he joined the excellent Brendan Taylor who finally found his best form during an innings of 44 from 57 balls. The captain used his feet to good effect - or thought he had - when he double-stepped down the wicket to opposite number Daniel Vettori and was hit on the pads.
Zimbabwe now travel to Sri Lanka on Saturday morning where they face two games against the home side on March 10 and Pakistan on March 14, both in the northern town of Pallekele close to the city of Kandy. Full scorecard below the cut.
Zimbabwe 162 (46.2 overs; Taylor 44, Southee 3/29), New Zealand 166/0 (33.3 overs; Guptill 86*, B McCullum 76*). New Zealand win by 10 wickets.
[Match report via ZC]
The Times of India reports that the Cricket World Cup match between Australia and Zimbabwe has been investigated by the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit, after the slow scoring rate of Aussie openers Shane Watson and Brad Haddin raised concerns. Responding to the reports, Aussie coach Tim Nielsen stated that his players were simply responding to the match conditions:
Everyone had this perception that they went slowly. But if Zimbabwe were going to be competitive against us, they needed to take early wickets with their spinners. We're playing the way we think is the right way to play.
The investigation seems to be a (healthy?) dose of paranoia on the part of the ICC, and there's no indication at the moment that anything untoward was going on. I have to say, though, that the unspoken implication of "Zimbabwe were being competitive, that can't be right" does a grave disservice to the Zimbabwean spin attack, who can tie any team in knots on their day. Spot fixing has, however, been in the spotlight since several Pakistani players were caught engaging in the practice during their tour of England last year.
Time of India - ICC probes Australia-Zimbabwe World Cup match
One thing we've known from day one of this World Cup is that, if Zimbabwe are to have any chance of reaching the knock-out stage, then the two Associate sides in Group A need to be dispatched with minimal fuss. It was the turn of Canada today, who had stated before the match that this was one of their targets to win - but after some very shaky opening overs for Zimbabwe the traffic was almost all one-way as Zimbabwe eased to a massive 175-run victory - and it should have been even larger.
The match got off to the worst possible start for Zimbabwe, though, when Brendan Taylor was trapped lbw off the first ball of the match, and was followed back to the pavilion two overs later by Charles Coventry, leaving Zimbabwe looking decidedly shaky on 7/2. That left Tatenda Taibu and Craig Ervine at the crease, though, and the pair carefully began rebuilding Zimbabwe's innings, building in confidence as they went and eventually adding a record third-wicket partnership of 181 off 167 balls to fire Zimbabwe right back into the match. At that point a score in the 350+ range seemed possible, but the loss of both Ervine (85) and Taibu (98) over the course of two overs put the brakes on Zimbabwe's charge and marked the beginning of a Canadian fightback. Wickets fell regularly from there as Balaji Rao (4/57) finally managed to get through the Zimbabwean defences, and the side limped (comparatively) to 298/9 from their 50 overs.
If Canada still fancied their chances of a successful chase, though, Zimbabwe gave them absolutely no chance to get that chase started, as Ray Price (3/16) demolished the top order - veteran John Davison went in the second over, followed quickly by Nitish Kumar and Ashish Bagai on consecutive balls in the 6th over, leaving Canada in deep trouble at 7/3, and while their remaining batsmen were able to keep their wickets safe for somewhat longer, with their run-rate never rising above 3/over a win was never on the cards. Their innings became a war of attrition, as Zimbabwe (perhaps foolishly) played with their part-timers, perhaps in an effort to give them match pratice, while the Canadians simply tried to see out their 50 overs, with whatever score they managed being a bonus. Exciting it wasn't. Graeme Cremer (3/31) eventually brought the tedium to an end in the 43rd over, and Zimbabwe may well end up hoping that run-rate doesn't come into the quarter-final equations, as they could certainly have made more of an effort to finish this match off.
Still, a win is a win, and Zimbabwe now have one on the board while Canada don't. Full scorecard for this match is below the cut, and Zimbabwe now go on to face New Zealand on Friday in a match that it seems more and more people are expecting to be the one where they could spring an upset, against a Black Cap side that's out of form and weak against spin. Fingers crossed.
Zimbabwe 298/9 (50 overs; Taibu 98, Balaji Rao 4/57), Canada 123 (42.1 overs; Surkari 26, Price 3/16). Zimbabwe win by 175 runs.
Newsday reports that ZC have released their 2011 playing calendar, which includes three Test matches - against Bangladesh, Pakistan and New Zealand - as well as a number of other fixtures to make for a busy year. The playing schedule apparently has the blessing of the ICC, and will also see Zim playing their first home day/night ODIs, against Bangladesh. Here're the details:
July 1-10 Triangular Series: Australia A, South Africa A, Zimbabwe XI July 13-23 Australia A v Zimbabwe XI: 2 unofficial Tests August 1-21 Bangladesh v Zimbabwe: 1 Test, 5 ODIs August 28 - September ?? Pakistan v Zimbabwe: 1 Test, 3 ODIs, 2 T20Is September 21 - October 3 South Africa v Zimbabwe: 3 ODIs, 2 T20Is October 21 - November 14 New Zealand v Zimbabwe: 1 Test, 3 ODIs, 2 T20Is
Busy year ahead, then, and ZC seem to be sticking to the 'phased return' plan. The 'A' series provide a good warm-up for the later full series, with the rest of the year making sure that lack of match experience shouldn't be an excuse for anyone. All we need now are some good results...
Newsday - Busy schedule for Zim cricket team
Zimbabwe lost their opening game of the 2011 World Cup by 91 runs to Australia in the 55,000-seater Sardar Patel Stadium but they caused the defending champions plenty of problems and emerged with considerably more credit than most observers thought was possible given the disparity of skill and experience between the teams.
Having restricted Australia to a modest 262/6 in fine batting conditions, Zimbabwe slumped to a disappointing 171 all out in reply but won plenty of new admirers and had much to feel satisfied about.
Although the top order batting displayed it’s all-too-familiar fragility against fast bowling in the run chase, the bowling unit rose magnificently to the challenge of containing Ricky Ponting’s champions and their final total was both below ‘par’ for the conditions as well as general expectations.
The three front line spinners were outstanding. Ray Price shouldered the burden of opening the bowling while both he and Prosper Utseya delivered the majority of their overs during power-play situations with scant protection in the deep. Both men conceded just 43 runs from their 10 overs – there will be few better performances in the tournament from spinners against a top batting order.
Leg spinner Graeme Cremer enjoyed the comparative ‘comfort’ of bowling in the middle overs but still deserves great credit for maintaining an immaculate line during ten overs which earned him 1/41. Both Cremer and Utseya also made a significant point to the officiators of world cricket by claiming lbw wickets with the aid of the third umpire.
Time and time again in recent years Zimbabwe’s bowlers have noted with mounting frustration how international umpires are less inclined to award decisions in their favour, especially when the opposition are a major power. Despite it being the first game Zimbabwe have ever played with the use of television referrals, they trusted their instincts and had two decisions reversed in their favour.
Sri Lankan umpire Asoka de Silva and Englishmen Richard Kettleborough gave openers Brad Haddin (29) and Shane Watson (79) ‘not out’ but first Utseya and then Cremer asked for a review and got their men.
Team management’s decision to select Reggie Chakabva as an ‘extra’ batsman instead of Shingi Masakadza as an additional bowling option meant that Elton Chigumbura had to share the fifth bowler’s allocation of 10 overs between himself and part-timers Taylor and Sean Williams. It was certainly the correct selection option – or would have been if captain Chigumbura was not so wretchedly short of form and confidence with the ball at the moment.
Chigumbura’s only two overs cost 18 runs while Taylor, who conceded 12 in his first, bowled three overs for 23. Their five overs for 41 gave the otherwise bogged down Aussies the room for manoeuvre and escape they desperately needed.
So it will fall to another team to end Australia’s 12-year, 30-match unbeaten run at the World Cup while Zimbabwe travel to Nagpur where they will be strong favourites to beat minnows Canada in their second match on February 28.
Australia 262/6 (50 overs; Watson 79, Mpofu 2/58), Zimbabwe 171 (46.2 overs; Cremer 37, Johnson 4/19). Australia win by 91 runs
[Match report via ZC]
A stunning, unbeaten century by Elton Chigumbura wasn’t enough to prevent Zimbabwe from slipping to a four wicket defeat against Ireland in their second and final warm-up match at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur on Tuesday. The Zimbabwean captain’s brutal assault helped his team recover from a desperate situation at 100-5 with less than 20 overs remaining to a competitive 244-8 in their 50 overs before a disciplined bowling performance promised much but just failed to deliver as the Irish reached 245-6 in reply to win with just three balls remaining. Had Zimbabwe fielded to their normal, high standard the result would almost certainly have been different.
Having chosen to bat first and seen the entire top order struggle on a surprisingly difficult pitch, Chigumbura came to the crease at 74-4 in the 25th over with a mountain to climb to justify his decision. But that is exactly what he did. Cautious at first on the back of a long run of lean scores, the powerful right hander grew in confidence throughout his innings and was ably assisted by Prosper Utseya (26) in a sixth wicket stand of 54 to provide the innings with much needed stability.
Chigumbura’s half century came from 61 balls with just two fours and a delightful six flicked over deep backward square leg. He was compact and organised but there was nothing to indicate the ferocity to come which saw him move from 50 to 100 in just 20 more deliveries including a further six fours and two sixes, the last of which sailed over long on to raise his century from the final ball of the innings.
Zimbabwe’s new-look opening pair of Brendan Taylor (1) and Charles Coventry (5) struggled against the new ball and Sean Williams, too, never settled but Tatenda Taibu (45 from 78 balls) and Craig Ervine (27 from 53 balls) spent valuable time at the crease before Chigumbura transformed the innings.
Ireland’s reply began disastrously for Zimbabwe when Ed Rainsford sprained his ankle bowling the first ball and now faces a battle to regain fitness for the rest of the tournament. But senior spinners Ray Price and Prosper Utseya again bowled superbly for figures of 2-37 and 0-34 respectively in their 10 overs while Shingi Masakadza claimed 2-39 in 6.2 overs. Alex Cusack (47) and Andre Botha (79) did the majority of the early scoring but it was left to experienced left hander Kevin O’Brien to see the Irish to victory with an unbeaten 62 from just 61 balls.
The match did not have ‘official’ status so Chigumbura’s remarkable innings will not be recorded in his career statistics – but neither will Zimbabwe’s defeat.
“It was the worst fielding performance we have produced since I took over as coach,” said a disappointed coach Alan Butcher afterwards. “It was diabolical and unacceptable and I told the players that. We didn’t score enough runs and it was actually a good effort to get so close to victory given how poorly we fielded.”
For Chigumbura it was a day of mixed emotions: “I’m pleased to have scored the hundred and to get back to form – hopefully I can carry it on for the rest of the tournament. But we will have to improve as a team and it was very disappointing to field like we did and to lose.”
Full scorecard below the cut. Zimbabwe's next match is their opening Group A fixture, against Australia on Monday (21 February).
Zimbabwe 244/8 (50 overs; Chigumbura 103*, Johnston 2/9), Ireland 245/6 (49.3 overs; Botha 79, Price 2/37). Ireland win by 4 wickets.
[Match report via ZC]
Zimbabwe's cricketers made a sluggish start to their Cricket World Cup campaign on Indian soil when they slumped to 152 all out and lost by eight wickets to a rampant South African team at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk just outside the coastal city of Chennai on Saturday evening.
Despite the apparent gravity of the defeat there were several mitigating factors to consider as well as positives to emerge from the contest.
The first is that it was a 14-a-side match and thus very much a training exercise in which both sides were more concerned with individual performances rather than the team result. The second is that no team in the world is more efficient and ruthless than the Proteas in a pressure-free environment. Add an element of 'match situation' - not to mention pressure - and the Proteas can look a very different team.
The match looked very different indeed for the first 10 overs when the experiment of partnering Charles Coventry (21) with Brendan Taylor at the top of the order produced an opening stand of 49 and good reason to be optimistic. But a miscued drive to mid on ended Coventry's promising innings and wickets fell regularly thereafter.
The key wickets of Tatenda Taibu and Elton Chigumbura lasted just one and four balls respectively, the former caught at slip off the explosive Morne Morkel and latter trapped lbw by spinner Robin Peterson, neither troubling the scorers. While Taibu's form is of little concern, captain Chigumbura's slump has lasted too long for comfort. His team desperately need him to be at his best with bat and ball to make an impact during the tournament.
When Taylor edged a ripping leg spinner from Imran Tahir into the right glove of 'keeper AB de Villiers the team's innings had crashed to 82-5 and was all but unsalvageable. Sean Williams (35 from 59 balls) pushed cleverly for singles and ran hard between the wickets until he chanced his luck once too often against the arm of Faf du Plessis and was run out and Reggie Chakabva (18) kept him company during a seventh wicket stand of 46 which briefly promised a revival. Morkel (3-16) and debutant Tahir (3-35), however, were too strong for the tail-enders and quickly brought an end to proceedings.
Ray Price and Greg Lamb claimed the consolation wickets of openers Hashim Amla (45) and Graeme Smith (41) but nothing troubled Jacques Kallis (49) and AB de Villiers (41) as they completed victory with 26.5 overs to spare.
Zimbabwe play their second warm-up game against Ireland in Nagpur on Tuesday before the tournament gets under way with their first official match against Australia on February 21 in Ahmedabad. Full scorecard below the cut.
Zimbabwe 152 (41.5 overs; Taylor 40, Morkel 3/16), South Africa 153/2 (23.3 overs; Kallis 49*, Price 1/19). South Africa win by 8 wickets.
[Match report via ZC]
Zimbabwe are currently in Dubai for two warm-up matches ahead of the World Cup, and got their campaign off to a flyer with a 6-wicket win over Ireland yesterday. Both sides fielded 12 players in the match (11 batting, 11 fielding) so it doesn't count as a ranking or capped game, but Zimbabwe's performance in it was certainly impressive. Ireland were put into bat after Zimbabwe won the toss, and bar a 2nd-wicket stand of 95 by William Porterfield (66) and returning Irish hero Ed Joyce (45), it was all Zimbabwe's innings: once the 2nd wicket fell, Ireland lost their remaining 8 for 93 runs, with Andrew White (41) being the only other player to reach double figures. As expected, it was Zimbabwe's spin combination that did the damage, with Greb Lamb (3/30) and Graeme Cremer 2/21) leading the charge.
In reply, Brendan Taylor finally found some form, carrying his bat for the innings to end on 84 not-out, while Craig Ervine's 47 helped see Zimbabwe home with over 6 overs to spare. Alex Cusack was the pick of the bowlers for Ireland, with 2/29.
A convincing win for Ireland, then, against the side that held them to a famous tie last World Cup. The two will meet in another warm-up before the World Cup proper begins, but Ireland go on now to face Netherlands tomorrow before leaving Dubai. Full scorecard for this match is below the cut.
Ireland 204 (48.1 overs; Porterfield 66, Lamb 3/30), Zimbabwe 208/4 (43.5 overs; Taylor 84*, Cusack 2/29). Zimbabwe win by 6 wickets.
Presented without comment, below the cut you'll find the scorecard for the 2nd Youth Twenty20 between South Africa U19 and Zimbabwe U19.
Zimbabwe 151/8 (20 overs; Kaia 60*, Williams 2/28), South Africa 155/2 (15.5 overs; de Kock 102*, Mapala 1/33). South Africa U19 win by 8 wickets.