LESS than 24 hours after undergoing a gruelling fitness test, the Zimbabwe Under-19 side put on a commendable show in a practice match against Mountaineers at Old Hararians on Wednesday.
Despite watching his charges going down to their experienced opponents by 88 runs, national Under-19 coach Prosper Utseya may have been especially pleased with Milton Shumba’s brilliant century.
Indeed, Shumba stole the limelight as he racked up 111 runs, including six boundaries and five maximums, off 125 deliveries.
On winning the toss, Mountaineers opted to bat first and half-centuries from Roy Kaia (81), Tino Mawoyo (69 not out) and Joylord Gumbie (69) saw them amassing a total of 341 runs for the loss of eight wickets from their 50 overs.
Kudakwashe Macheka was the pick of the Under-19 bowlers, claiming three scalps for 64 off his seven overs, while there was a wicket apiece for Brighton Chapungu, Rodney Mufudza, Privilege Chesa, Nkosilathi Nungu and Tadiwa Nyangoni.
Shumba had a remarkable performance with the bat aside, Tadiwa Marumani and Wesley Madhevere each contributed 33 runs, with Dane Schadendorf chipping in with 19, as the youngsters mounted a spirited chase.
They, however, folded for 253 in 43 overs to lose by 88 runs, with Wellington Masakadza taking three wickets, while there were two each for Trevor Mutsamba and Roy Kaia.
The Under-19s are leaving no stone unturned as they prepare for the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2020 in South Africa, with the players who are vying for places in the final squad for the biennial global youth tournament also undergoing a fitness test at Harare Sports Club on Tuesday.
Despite only resuming the official training camp last week following the school examinations break, most of the players had shown impressive levels of fitness.
“According to the standards that we set, 80% of the guys have done pretty well considering that they have been on a break for the school exams. So I am actually quite happy,” Zimbabwe fitness and conditioning trainer Walter Karimanzira said.
An equally impressed Utseya said: “It was very important for the guys to go through the test so that we see where they are in terms of their fitness levels.
“I am very happy that we are not far off and in the next few days the few who were a bit behind can work on meeting the required standard.
“These guys are going to play lots of cricket, one game after the other, and it’s going to take a lot out of them. So if they are fit, I believe they can compete at high intensity because it’s a high-intensity tournament.”
Zimbabwe were drawn against Bangladesh, Pakistan and Scotland in Group C of the Cricket World Cup 2020 that starts in January.
Utseya’s team will open their campaign at the 16-team tournament against Bangladesh at the JB Marks Oval in Potchefstroom on January 18.
Zimbabwe will then face Pakistan and Scotland on January 22 and 25, respectively at the Witrand Oval, also in Potchefstroom.
The top two teams from each of the four groups at the tournament will advance to the Super League, while the remaining teams will feature in the Plate championship.
Zimbabwe’s final squad of 15 for the tournament is set to be announced on December 7. — Zimcricket