Minnows play against giants. Cricket lovers expect them to put up a fight. They lose without battling. This seems to be the story in this cricket season. Bangladesh were blown away by Pakistan and now, the Zimbabweans are facing a similar situation. In their current tour of New Zealand, they have been thrashed resoundingly in the one off Test and the 2 ODIs so far. To rub it in, New Zealand have not at all looked like giving away an inch, despite inducting quite a few rookies in their side. But all said and done, the cricketers from the African nation are one of the earnest in the world and they will look to salvage some pride in the third and final ODI.
The hosts have not placed a wrong step in the first tour of their summer. The batsmen have been in prime form in both ODIs with newcomer Rob Nicol scoring a masterly 146 in the second ODI. What will impress the selectors is the fact that Nicol had also picked up 4 wickets in the first ODI thus continuing their tradition of producing competent all rounders. The stand in skipper Brendon McCullum has not exactly set the scoreboard on fire, but he might cash in on the goodwil extended by the Zimbabwean bowlers in the third match. The old warhorse, Jacob Oram was sent up the order in the previous ODI and he blasted his way to 59 in just 28 balls. The other talking point has been the confident show by the youngster Tom Latham who scored a quick fire 48 in the second ODI in the death overs. The bowlers have been in good rhythm and have made optimum use of familiar conditions with strike bowler Mills standing out. Overall, the team has a good feel about them and they look set to clean sweep the ODI series.
The problem with each department in the Zimbabwean side has been the lack of consitency. If the first match saw them bowl out the Kiwis for 248, the bowlers conceded 372 runs in the second. Most of the Zimbabwean bowlers have been taken for a lot of runs and amongst them, Jarvis has been really expensive and hence a big letdown as many felt that the swinging conditions could have been best exploited by him. Ray Price too has not been at his economical best, which has hampered their containment strategy in the middle overs. As far as the batting is concerned, it’s been the same story again. Once again Taylor, Taibu and Chigumbura have scored the runs while Masakadza , Matsikenyeri and Chakabva at the top have failed dismally. It remains to be seen if the think tank will persist with the same group of players or brood fresh talent into the side.
The third game will be Tatenda Taibu’s 150th ODI in his long career.