Paul Munyuki Sports Reporter
THE world is watching and the Chevrons have a golden chance to produce the knock-out blow and secure a rare series victory against one of cricket’s heavyweight nations when they take on the Black Caps in the second One Day International at Harare Sports Club today.
Zimbabwe charmed the cricket world with a strong batting performance on Sunday to overhaul a massive 300-plus total posted by the New Zealanders and power to an impressive seven-wicket win in the first ODI at the same venue.
Reports have been filtering millions of Zimbabweans who suddenly shifted their attention from watching the season-opening high-profile Charity Shield match between Arsenal and Chelsea, live on television, to switch to ZTV who were broadcasting the ODI live, and cheer their country as Craig Ervine and Sean Williams pushed us closer to victory..
Everyone loves a winning national team and the Chevrons were hailed as national heroes, following their sensational victory, on a weekend when the national sporting discipline, football, once again misfired with the Young Warriors being hammered in South Africa to crash out of the 2016 Olympic Games qualifiers.
There was something special about Zimbabwe’s win on Sunday.
It was a triumph against a team that, only a few months ago, played in the final of the World Cup only to lose to eventual winners, Australia, and a nation ranked as the third best ODI side on the globe today.
That the Chevrons held their nerve, to overhaul the big target, was also impressive.
Now, they have a chance to seal the series.
“It has been a hard road for us and it shows we are capable of winning games. I want to thank everyone who has been behind us through the difficult times, hopefully, we can carry on to the next couple of games,” skipper Elton Chigumbura said.
“It was a good wicket and our opening partnership showed the way, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
It seems Zimbabwe might just have drawn a number of lessons from their series defeat at the hands of India last month, in the ODI series, only to bounce back to tie the Twenty20 duel 1-1.
Ervine was not part of the side due to a hamstring injury but, on his return, coach Dav Whatmore promoted him to the crucial number three position and the stylish batsman responded in style by hammering his maiden ODI century as he guided his team home.
The opening pair of Hamilton Masakadza and Chamu Chibhabha laid a good foundation on Sunday.
“I was just doing my job. The plan was that I would get in there, play my role and bat through the innings of which I did,” said Ervine.
“Obviously the openers did a good job and it was all about carrying over from their good performance.”
But it’s not every day, when you chase, that you can overhaul 300-plus and Zimbabwe have to do something about their death bowling after another poor show in the final 10 overs.
Chris Mpofu, after an impressive return against India, was hammered by the Black Caps while Tinashe Panyangara did well as he picked two wickets.
Ross Taylor, the in-form Black Cap batsman who hammered a century in a losing cause, said Sunday’s outcome was fashioned by what the Zimbabweans did well and not what his men did not do well.
“Any time you go 1-0 down in a three-match series you are under pressure and Zimbabwe play very well at home. It’s only one game but we have to win the next two to win the series. Tuesday becomes a very important match.
“We were very happy with 300 — we thought it was probably a 270-280 wicket so we thought we were probably 20 ahead, but the way (Chamunorwa) Chibhabha and Hamilton (Masakadza) came out and got them off to a good start, it was always going to be tough to peg them back.
“The way Ervine batted as well as Masakadza, they batted outstandingly well and took the game away from us. To get there with an over to spare was a very good effort,” said Taylor, who is probably the best in-form ODI batsman in the world today.
And, it appears, the New Zealanders are impact of their team’s loss.
“The great run at the Cricket World Cup has quickly faded to a distant with the Black Caps losing their opening ODI against Zimbabwe,” the New Zealand Herald thundered yesterday
“Does New Zealand drop its guard against the minnows, or do they lift against us?
“The Black Caps are cricket’s new darlings and ranked third in the world, having wowed the nation and beyond in the way they made the World Cup final.
“Yet seventh ranked Bangladesh has wood on the Kiwis, having won the last seven against New Zealand on home soil.
“The 11th ranked Zimbabweans, who are just above last placed Afghanistan, have won nine of 36 one day matches against New Zealand.
“If the World Cup feel-good factor started to slip away during the disappointing tour of England, it’s turned into an avalanche with this defeat.”
And Prime news presenter Eric Young also spoke about the defeat when asked if the people of New Zealand would feel the loss at the hands of the Zimbabweans.
“Well, I think some people will care, I’d like to think Mike Hesson cares, I’d like to think that Kane Williamson cares, I’d like to think that the rest of the Black Caps care.
“It’s difficult isn’t it though to really care about a series in Zimbabwe when what we’re really waiting for is the series against South Africa,” said Young.