ON Wednesday, the Zimbabwe Cricket team suffered one of its most humiliating defeats in recent history after losing to neighbours South Africa by an innings and 120 runs on day two of the experimental four-day day-night Test in Port Elizabeth.
It was yet another reminder of the huge gulf in class between bottom-ranked Zimbabwe and South Africa, ranked second in Test cricket.
Expectations were high ahead of the one-off four-day day-night Test and Heath Streak’s men appeared up to the task after restricting the star-studded South African batting line-up to 309 for nine declared on the opening day on Tuesday.
Not for the first time, however, it was the team’s batting which proved to be the Chevrons’ Achilles heel, as they were bowled out for 68 and 121 to suffer a crushing defeat.
While facing the unfamiliar pink ball under floodlights was always going to be a challenge for Streak’s men, the fact that they lost 16 wickets before the lights even came on, was another indictment of the team’s batting frailties in general.
So bad was Zimbabwe that Streak, the former fast bowler, suggested his nation — whose opportunities of playing Test cricket are few and far between — might need to cut down on playing the sport’s traditional format and focus more on the short forms.
While in the past blame would have already been apportioned to the administrators of the game in Zimbabwe, it has been refreshing to note the ZC leadership led by Tavengwa Mukuhlani and managing director Faisal Hasnain have been pulling all the stops to turn around the fortunes of the domestic game.
The duo of Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis was lured back to the national team from stints in the English County Championship, in an effort to bolster the team and ZC’s bid to host next year’s qualifiers for the 2019 ICC World Cup was successful.
What’s left now is for the players to start delivering on the pitch and it is high time the selectors read the riot act on the players.
The atrocious batting performance against South Africa should be a cause for concern heading into the New Year, where failure to qualify for the World Cup will have dire consequences.
While the performance in South Africa was very disappointing, it should also be pointed out that it’s too early to start ringing the alarm bells.
The national cricket team has gradually improved during Streak’s first year in charge since taking over in October, 2016.
The Chevrons fought bravely for a home draw against West Indies in which they batted for 144 overs in their second innings to save the game while they also edged Sri Lanka 3-2 in an away one-day international series in July that showed the potential of the side in the shorter formats.
It is time for the cricket stakeholders including government to come together to boost the game for posterity.