Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE Under-19 cricket team are today hoping to evoke the spirit of the 2004 edition when the African side hammered Australia and progressed to the elite Super League of the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup at the expense of the heavyweights. The youth outfit, now coached by Stephen Mangongo, reckon they could seal their place in the last eight today but they will have to move mountains against the three-time champions.
Australia are desperate for a comeback following a 100-run defeat to Group B leaders India in their first match at the weekend. Zimbabwe on the other hand gave themselves a good head start with a 10-wicket thumping of minnows Papua New Guinea. They now need an upset victory either over Australia today or India in their last group match.
Coach Mangongo told The Herald from New Zealand that his charges are motivated for the task. “I can say the situation in camp is calm despite the coming storm. The boys are much aware that they are one foot away from Super Eight qualification. “We are therefore playing this encounter like a typical cup game, thus coming hard. We are going for broke, hook line and sinker.
“There is great vibe at team, we had a compulsory camaraderie dinner to strengthen one another. So tomorrow (today) they fight for each other ball by ball,” said the former senior national team coach. A win by the Under-19s could give the necessary consolation for a nation that has suffered extreme inconsistencies at senior team level.
The Chevrons, who are currently engaged in a tri-nations series against the hosts and Sri Lanka, nonetheless continue to overshadow the Under-19s who are currently playing at the pinnacle of youth cricket. While the Under-19s were celebrating their win over PNG in the World Cup opener, the Chevrons were sinking to an eight wicket defeat at the hands of Bangladesh in their first game of the series.
Today they play Sri Lanka just hours after the youth team have embarked in their critical battles for a quarter-final berth against Australia Under-19. Australia have dominated the meetings between the youth sides. Australia currently lead 4-1, with three of those wins coming in a quadrangular series in India in 2003, and the fourth coming in their first clash during the 1998 ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup.
Zimbabwe’s win came at the 2004 World Cup when they triumphed by seven wickets and with almost two-thirds of their overs remaining as they gunned down a target of 74 runs with relative ease.
Future Test cricketers Tinashe Panyangara and Elton Chigumbura claimed all 10 Australian wickets between them that day. But many things have changed. India, with two wins under the belt currently lead Group B on four points while Zimbabwe are second on two points. “Its a great position to be in. Strong net run rate already achieved better than any team in group. With showers expected in the afternoon it is paramount to play top game the first half.
“Otherwise we are not fazed at all, very calm. Our key strategy is to focus on our processes and to execute role play. We are a fiercely proud African team gearing to showcase our immense talent. Therefore we have no business to focus on opposition. We just focus on our skills,” said Mangongo.
Again all-rounder Wesley Madhevere is one of the key players that the Zimbabweans are looking up to following his starring role against PNG when he picked three wickets and followed that up with a crispy half century. Still, Australia remain favourites to win this match. They come into the tournament as one of the teams to look forward to.
Australia have won the first-ever ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup in 1988, and have since added the 2002 and 2010 titles to their collection to join India as the most successful teams in the history of the tournament. But they now face two must-win matches if they are to qualify for the quarter-finals following the defeat to India in the first game. Their captain Jason Sangha is the man to watch. Sangha is one of the most highly regarded young batsmen in Australia and already has a first class century against England to his name.
But he will need to do more than just bat well against Zimbabwe with his team having struggled collectively against India. Their vice-captain Will Sutherland told the Australian media they will not take Zimbabwe lightly. “It’s a really important game and we really want to win the next two and give ourselves a chance for quarter-finals. We can’’t underestimate them (Zimbabwe) at all. We haven’’t really seen much footage. I do know they’’ve got a lot of spinners. “Through the middle, they’’ll look to bowl spin, and then (they have) a few handy batsmen. We’ve got to be right on our game,” Sutherland said.
Zimbabwe: Liam Roche (cap), Gregory Dollar, Donald Mlambo, Tanunurwa Makoni, Jayden Schadendorf, Milton Shumba, Alistair Frost, Dion Myers, Nkosilatu Nunu, Jonathan Conolly, Wesley Madhevere, Kieran Robinson, Robert Chimhinya, Tinashe Nenhunzi, Taun Harrison.
Australia: Jason Sangha (cap), Will Sutherland, Xavier Bartlett, Max Bryant, Jack Edwards, Zak Evans, Jarrod Freeman, Ryan Hadley, Baxter Holt, Nathan McSweeney, Jonathan Merlo, Lloyd Pope, Jason Ralston, Param Uppal, Austin Waugh