Zimbabwe made an unconvincing start to their preparations for the ICC Cricket World Cup with a 22-run win in an unofficial warm-up match against Northern Districts XI at the Harry Barker Reserve in Gisborne, New Zealand, yesterday.
Batting first in the rain, affected match which had to be reduced to 35 overs aside, Zimbabwe made 229 for 8 before restricting their opponents to 207 for eight in their allotted 35 overs.
Zimbabwe’s main worry will however be the failure by the team’s senior batsmen to get some runs in conditions similar to what they will face when the World Cup starts while some of theirs bowlers went for too many runs against a weak batting lineup.
The pair of opener Sikandar Raza (59) and Solomon Mire (68) were the only real positives for Zimbabwe after scoring valuable confidence-boosting runs ahead of the start of the global showpiece in 10 days’ time.
Raza’s 59 came off just 53 deliveries and included three fours and as many sixes while Mire, batting at number eight, rescued Zimbabwe with his blistering 68 off 32 balls which included three fours and six sixes.
Middle order batsman Craig Ervine also chipped in with the third highest contribution of 31 runs.
While the trio managed to get some runs, it is the failure of the team’s middle order and in particular the quartet of Hamilton Masakadza (2), Elton Chigumbura (16), Sean Williams (7) and Brendan Taylor (11) which should be the main cause for concern. The national side tends to do well when Masakadza and Taylor play well on the day and coach Dav Whatmore will be desperate for his senior players to adjust quickly to the conditions in Australasia.
Zimbabwe’s bowling department, while managing to restrict the Northern District XI, was also below-par with the team’s main spinner Prosper Utseya struggling to make an impact as he conceded 36 runs off just four overs.
Tinashe Panyangara was the pick of the Zimbabwe bowlers, snaring two wickets for 27 runs off his five overs while Tendai Chatara claimed a wicket for 28 runs in his four overs.
The spin duo of Tafadzwa Kamungozi (1-34) and Sean Williams (1-23) provided another positive for Zimbabwe as they were economical in the middle period which slowed down the Northern District XI scoring.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe will play two more matches against the Northern Districts XI side tomorrow and on Friday in Gisborne before their two official warm-up matches against New Zealand and Sri Lanka on February 9 and 11, respectively.