Is Zim’s fairytale ending?

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Zimbabwe enjoyed a charmed return to Test cricket, but as the series against Pakistan showed, there are several issues that needed to be sorted to prevent their fairytale from turning sour.

After almost two months of wowing the cricketing world with their headline-grabbing comeback into the premier format of the game, with stories of their spirit and survival through barren cricketing, times, Zimbabwe cricket’s midnight hour has come.

And their days of remaining cricket’s Prince Charming are rapidly dwindling. They knew the fairytale would not last forever and that things would get more difficult.

Pakistan are tough opposition and even though they regarded the tour of Zimbabwe as a way to introduce new players and change combinations, they were also careful not to approach it too lightly. As a result they succeeded in scalding Zimbabwe even on medium heat.

Their loss in the one-off Test was probably expected, but the clean sweep of the one-day series was not, and Zimbabwe will feel aggrieved that in one Sunday afternoon of lethargic bowling, they let an entire series slip.

That they went down fighting in the first match and threatened in parts of the third does not reflect on the results sheet.

What is printed there is merely a record of them being outplayed with bat and ball, a purely objective summary of the events that took place on the field.

“We are better than that,” Brendan Taylor said after the whitewash.

“We know we can play better cricket than what we displayed in the last three ODIs (one-day international).”

It’s a defiant statement, but it’s also a plea to his own players to prove him right. Taylor is not simply spouting sentiment, Zimbabwe have already showed signs of improvement, although those signs did not translate into results.

They scored over 220 runs in each of the three matches, totals they were not able to reach through an entire World Cup.

That they scored too slowly, often without intent or purpose, were bogged down in the middle overs of both their chases and never really got going when they batted first, are issues that need to be addressed.

It’s likely that fear of collapse is holding them back, as coach Alan Butcher indicated, something that can only be solved with greater self-belief in their ability to build a competitive total without imploding.

“Our batters need to be more aggressive and harsher on themselves,” Taylor said.