Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Under-19 cricket team have put in some extra hours in batting practice as they look to bounce back to winning ways in a winner-take-all Group C encounter against Afghanistan at the ICC Under-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup today.
The Zimbabwe youth side will be back at the Diego Martin Sporting Complex in Trinidad, where they lost their last match to Pakistan on Monday, targeting victory over Afghanistan to qualify for the Super League stage.
Pakistan, who lead Group C with two wins from as many games, have already sealed their place in the Super League with four points.
Zimbabwe and Afghanistan are tied on two points each. Zimbabwe thrashed Papua New Guinea by 228 runs in their opening match before losing to Pakistan by 115 runs.
Afghanistan, on the other hand, had also started off on a brighter note when they beat Papua New Guinea by 135 runs. The Afghans then succumbed to a 24-run defeat to Pakistan on Thursday.
Both Zimbabwe and Afghanistan still have good chances following the early exit of Papua New Guinea. Zimbabwe had four days to work on improvements of their game.
They benefitted a four-day break following the rescheduling of the games by the tournament organisers to accommodate Afghanistan who arrived in the West Indies late for the event.
Zimbabwe Under-19 coach Prosper Utseya said they have been working very hard following last Monday’s defeat to Pakistan.
“This is a must win game for both teams and I think our guys are up for it. We are all looking forward to the game. I think we have done everything that we needed to do and it’s now up to the guys to go out there and enjoy their game.
“We know Afghanistan are a good team. They rely mostly on their spinners. So (batting coach Elton) Chigumbura has spent some time working with the guys.
“We have to put our best effort. We are quite aware that the whole nation is rooting behind us back home and we would want to make the nation proud,” said Utseya.
Zimbabwe batters scored 321 against Papua New Guinea and were bowled out for 200 against Pakistan. Utseya said they did not do well with the bat in the last game at the Diego Martin Sporting Complex where he estimates the par score to be 300-plus.
Zimbabwe are also looking to play an extra seamer to maximise on the conditions.
“We played our last game at the same venue. So in terms of the ground and how the wicket is going to play we have an idea.
“The ground is very fast. When we played against Pakistan, all the 19 wickets, I think, fell to seamers. So we are thinking of playing an extra seamer,” said Utseya.
Zimbabwe though, will go into the match as underdogs. Afghanistan have fared better than them in previous Under-19 World Cup competitions.
The Asians reached the quarterfinals at the last edition in 2020 and were semi-finalists in 2018.
Zimbabwe will be looking forward to top performances from key players like Emmanuel Bawa, Brian Bennett, Connor Mitchell, Alex Falao, Tendekai Mataranyika and Mgcini Dube.
The team lost one of their top spinners Victor Chirwa, who was suspended by the International Cricket Council on Thursday for illegal bowling action.