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Zimbabwe Women Lose World Cup Qualifier Opener

Zimbabwe's women were on the receiving end of a comprehensive defeat by the Dutch, in their first game of the Women's World Cup Qualifiers in Bangladesh. Batting first, Zimbabwe posted 145, but this proved to be nowhere near enough ar the Dutch powered their way to the target in less than 26 overs and for the loss of 4 wickets (2 of them run-outs). That leaves Zimbabwe bottom of Group A ahead of their next match, against Sri Lanka on the 17th (Thursday). Full scorecard below the cut.
Zimbabwe 145 (50 overs; Nyathi 29, Lanser 2/17), Netherlands 148/4 (25.3 overs; Veringmeier 56, Mazvishaya 1/22). Netherlands win by 6 wickets.

World T20 Fixtures Released

The fixture list for next year's World Twenty20 tournament has been released. The draw hasn't been particularly kind to Zimbabwe, who have landed in group C along with South Africa and hosts Sri Lanka. The group fixtures are:

18 September 2012       Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe            Hambantota
20 September 2012       South Africa v Zimbabwe         Hambantota
22 September 2012       Sri Lanka v South Africa        Hambantota

Top two sides from the group will qualify for the Super Eight, played in two groups of four, with the top two sides from those groups then going on to the semi-finals. Full details on the Fixtures page.

ICC Confirms 2015 World Cup will be for Full Members Only

The ICC have confirmed in a short statement following the ICC Executive Board meeting on 4 April that the next World Cup, to be held in Australia and New Zealand in 2015, will be restricted to the ten Full Member sides only, with Associate sides such as Ireland and Netherland, who both impressed at the tournament just ended, excluded from the event. The 2019 event will include a qualification process that will allow the Associates back in, while later tournaments will be based on position in the new ODI League, which will include provision for promotion and relegation.

Allow me to put my fan hat on for a moment, and throw impartiality out the window for a moment. I should also point out here that, while I'm first and foremost a Zimbabwe fan, I'm also an Ireland supporter. With that said...

Here are the problems with this:
- you cannot call a tournament a "World Cup" if participation is restricted to 10 defined nations. That's the Champions Trophy remit, not the World Cup's. To be truly a "World Cup", every cricket-playing nation should have a chance, however unlikely, of qualifying - for the past two World Cups the World Cricket League has provided that, it no longer does.
- it's a travesty that, in a 10-nation world cup, the 11th-ranked nation (Zimbabwe) is given a free pass into the competition at the expense of the 10th-ranked (Ireland). And believe me, the other nations in the World Cup will not let us forget this, especially if we were to perform in the next World Cup the way we did in the one just ended.
- fine, the path for Associates is reopened from 2019 - but that's 8 years away, and without the promise of the World Cup, maintaining interest and participation in the sport of cricket will not be easy. Rising participation in Ireland has been on the back of the side's World Cup upsets in 2011 and 2007, they'll be out of the limelight now for 8 years. The publicity gained from World Cup participation is irreplaceable.
- the sop offered to Associates by way of compensation is increased representation at the World Twenty20. Playing T20 will not help these sides develop.

The key issue here is the perception of fairness. The ICCs decision unfairly excludes the Associates, particularly Ireland based on their current world ranking. A qualifying tournament including, say, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh plus the top 4 Associates would remove that perception (and I have enough confidence in Zimbabwe's playing standards to be confident that we would qualify from such a tournament), leaving the fate of Associate representation at the World Cup in the hands of the Associates - if they play to the required standard, they'll be rewarded with a place. But to simply slam the door in the faces of those countries - who the ICC are supposed to be supporting the development of and especially when they were involved in many of the most exciting games of the last tournament, seems short-sighted at best.

The ICC spends most of their news release singing the praises of the 2009 World Cup, and the huge success it has been, before cutting off one of the reasons for that success. I hope the ICC will reconsider.
ICC - ICC Executive Board meets in Mumbai

ICC Denies Investigation into Aus v Zim Match

You may recall we reported a while back that the Times of India had reported that Zimbabwe's World Cup opener against Australia had been the subject of an investigation by the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit, on the basis of Australia's low run-rate. The ICC made no comment at the time, but the ToI repeated the allegation in an article (now withdrawn) posted yesterday, which did draw a response in the form of a statement from ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat, carried on the ICC website:

Following the publication of a false article by the Times of India correspondent Mr Prashant Dayal in the Ahmedabad edition on Tuesday, ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat has made the following statement.

"An article by Mr Dayal in yesterday's newspaper made a number of claims about an ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 match between Australia and Zimbabwe that can only be described as fictional.

"We do not comment on the activities of the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) and for good reason. However, after several misleading and downright false stories appearing in recent weeks it is time for us to show our displeasure and expose those responsible for affecting the integrity of the media.

"It is also patently false of the reporter to claim that the ICC ever suggested to it that the match was corrupted. The ICC confirms that, in terms of its policy, at no stage did anyone from the ICC speak to the journalist on this topic.

"To uphold the integrity of the media I expect Mr Dayal and the Times of India to retract such baseless stories."

The Times of India have since issued a retraction (in their paper edition, not on their website but quoted on the ICC website):

"The Times Of India carried a story on its website on March 22 alleging that the match between Australia and Zimbabwe had been spot-fixed. We apologise to Australia, Cricket Australia and the ICC for any embarrassment caused by this. We also accept that at no stage has the ICC ever confirmed or suggested the match was fixed. The story has since been taken off the website."

Wot, no apology for Zimbabwe?

Sweet Farewell for Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe concluded their World Cup campaign in rousing fashion with a heartening and much-needed 161-run victory over Kenya at what many people believe to be the modern 'home of cricket,' Eden Gardens in Kolkata, on Sunday.
It wasn't enough to earn a place in the knockout stages of the tournament but it was just the tonic needed by a disappointed squad of players and their equally disappointed fans who had hoped for so much before the tournament began. Half centuries from Vusi Sibanda (61), Tatenda Taibu (53) and Craig Ervine (66) helped push the Zimbabwe innings past 300, and the game was effectively ended before the run chase had really started when the Kenyans collapsed to 44/5 in reply.

All five bowlers used were amongst the wickets with spinners Ray Price, Greg Lamb and Graeme Cremer each claiming a brace while Sibanda and skipper Elton Chigumbura highlighted a sparkling fielding performance with brilliant run outs. Selection convenor Alistair Campbell was pleased with the result:

"It doesn’t matter that it was against Kenya who are ranked below us, the fact remains that the team got everything together and proved to themselves what they are capable of when the batting and the bowling click together on the same day."

Sibanda was a revelation with the bat having only joined the squad as a replacement two weeks ago while Taibu's calm head and maturity was just what was required after the early loss of openers Brendan Taylor (26) and Reggie Chakabva. But it was Ervine's flowing start and blistering finish which took the game away from Kenya and ensured him of the man-of-the-match award for an innings of 66 from just 54 deliveries with nine fours and a towering six which landed 20 rows deep in the famous stadium. It was Ervine's third half-century in six matches:

"I've learned a lot – it has been a great experience. Most of all I’ve learned how much more work there is to be done before I can hope to be consistent against the best teams in the world. But I’m prepared to do that work – we all are>"

Chigumbura, too, swatted a six over long off in his cameo innings of 38 from 41 balls while both Utseya and Lamb showed a hitherto unseen ability to clear the boundary with a six apiece at the death of the innings which saw them finish unbeaten on 19 and 17 from just six and 10 balls respectively.

Chris Mpofu struck with the fifth ball of the first over when Kenya began their unlikely pursuit of 309 for victory and new ball partner Price followed up with further wickets in the eighth and 12 overs to leave the innings in ruins. Captain Elton Chigumbura clearly enjoyed the result:

"It was a good way to finish the tournament. The next three months will be very important to us as we prepare for a couple of tours at home and our return to Test cricket. We need to remember the way we went about things, especially the bat, and try to work on those things and make them even better."

Full scorecard below the cut. Zimbabwe now get a few months' break from competitive cricket - the next matches on the schedule are an 'A' tri-series against South Africa and Australia, with the next full international match being the side's return to Test cricket, against Bangladesh in August.
Zimbabwe 308/6 (50 overs; Ervine 66, Otieno 2/61), Kenya 147 (36 overs; Odhiambo 44, Price 2/20). Zimbabwe win by 161 runs.
[Match report via ZC]

Pakistan End Zim's Quarter-Final Hopes

Needing a win to ensure their continued participation in the World Cup (and relying on run-rate even then), Zimbabwe's batting again imploded in their rain-affected match against Pakistan, who eased to a seven-wicket win to secure their own place in the next round. Batting first after winning the toss, Zimbabwe quickly found themselves on 13/3, a start which essentially ensure the ensuing defeat. After talking in a pre-match interview of his disappointment with the performances of the other top-order batsmen, opener Brendan Taylor managed just 4 before heading back to the pavillion; Regis Chakabva (0) and Vusi Sibanda (5) soon followed. Craig Ervine (52) and Elton Chigumbura (32*) put some fight back into the innings further down the order, but two rain interruptions didn't help - the second of those interruptions spelt the end of Zimbabwe's innings, at 151/7, and left Pakistan facing a Duckworth-Lewis target of 162 from 38 overs.

The early departure of Ahmed Shehzad (8) gave Zimbabwe some ray of hope, but despite another impressive performances from the spinners and excellent fielding work the target was low enough to ensure that Pakistan didn't have to push too hard to chase it down. Two further wickets were lost, with Price playing a role in all three - he took 2/21 from his 8 overs, and took the catch that secured wicket #3 for Prosper Utseya (1/24) - but while it was a fighting performance in the field the target the batsmen had left them to defend just wasn't good enough, and Pakistan reached their target with almost 4 overs to spare.

That leaves Zimbabwe's final match against Kenya on Sunday a purely pride affair, for the title of 2nd Best Side in Africa, while Pakistan go on to the quarter-finals. Full scorecard below the cut.
Zimbabwe 151/7 (39.4/50 overs; Ervine 52, Umar Gul 3/36), Pakistan 164/3 (34.1/38 overs; Asad Shafiq 78*, Price 2/21). Pakistan win by 7 wickets (D/L method).

Zimbabwe Lose to Sri Lanka

Zimbabwe succumbed to a brilliant all round display by Tillekeratne Dilshan in the fourth match of the ICC World Cup in Palekelle on Thursday losing by 144 runs as the Sri Lankan opener blazed a century and then claimed a career best four wickets for just four runs with his occasional off spin. Dilshan hammered his runs from just 131 balls and shared a World Cup record opening stand with fellow centurion Upul Tharanga who crafted a marginally more sedate 133 from 141 deliveries with 17 fours.

Zimbabwe's decision to bowl first surprised many observers but with an attack comprising four spinners, captain Elton Chigumbura felt he had no option given the amount of dew which forms on the outfield after sunset in this picturesque, mountain city. "In order for them to grip the ball and be most effective we needed to use the dry conditions in the first innings but the plan didn't work and they batted extremely well," Chigumbura said afterwards.

Tinashe Panyangara's selection as a second frontline fast bowler alongside Chris Mpofu backfired immediately when his first over cost 18 runs and the home side were off to a flying start. Indeed, with 77 runs on the board after just 10 overs and rapid progress maintained by the openers for much of the innings, Sri Lanka seemed set for an even larger total until the spinners regained some control towards the end and stemmed the scoring rate. Mpofu collected four quick wickets in the final overs when the slog was on to finish with figures of 4-62 from his seven overs.

A target of 328 for victory was always likely to be a challenge too far for Zimbabwe although Brendan Taylor's brilliant 80 from just 72 balls during an opening stand of 116 with the composed and organised Reggie Chakabva (35 from 61 balls) briefly gave the underdogs hope. Taylor's shot selection and execution was as good as any seen from an opening batsman during the tournament so far but when he was dismissed, caught pulling a slower ball to mid wicket, the rest of the batting suffered an all-too-familiar collapse.

"It was especially disappointing to lose in that way after such a good start," said batting coach Grant Flower. "Brendan batted beautifully but we needed more contributions to sustain the run chase. It didn't happen and we're all very upset about that."

Zimbabwe's last chance of gaining entry into the quarter finals now rests with an upset victory against Pakistan in their penultimate match against Pakistan at the same venue on Monday and an overwhelming win against Kenya in their final match in Kolkata on March 20. Full scorecard for this match is below the cut.
Sri Lanka 327/6 (50 overs; Dilshan 144, Mpofu 4/62). Zimbabwe 188 (39 overs; Taylor 80, Dilshan 4/4). Sri Lanka win by 139 runs.
[Match report via ZC]

Zimbabwe Lose to New Zealand By 10 Wickets

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]

Australia v Zimbabwe Match Investigated Over Spot-Fixing Concerns

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

Zimbabwe Trounce Canada in Must-Win Clash

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.

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