MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE VETERAN all-rounder Sean Williams (pictured) is one of the key players, who are set to bounce back into the full-strength Zimbabwe squad for the ICC T20 World Cup qualifier B, which arrived in Bulawayo on Wednesday to make final preparations for the event the country is hosting next month.
Williams, who is the Test captain, has been conspicuous by his absence from the national team since he featured in the ODI series during the Sri Lanka tour in January.
The 35-year-old cricketer missed the white ball series against South Africa A, Afghanistan One Day and T20 series, as well as, the five-match T-20 series against Namibia, which Zimbabwe lost 3-2. Zimbabwe also lost the series against Afghanistan in both formats as well as against South Africa A.
Williams also lost his father Colin, a hockey legend, back in April.
Other players, who will be making a return to the national team fold, include Wellington Masakadza and Richard Ngarava, who have been out injured as new head coach Dave Houghton takes a full-strength side into the qualifiers.
Zimbabwe will be looking to qualify for a first T20 World Cup since 2016 when it was hosted by India and it would be a sixth appearance at the event.
Australia hosts the 2022 ICC T20 World Cup this October and November.
The World Cup qualifier is scheduled for Bulawayo Athletic Club and Queens Sports Club in the country’s second city from July 11-17.
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Eight teams namely Jersey, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Singapore, Uganda, USA and hosts Zimbabwe will battle for the final two places at the event, which features the world’s best nation in the shortest format of the game.
And after the Zimbabwe players and technical staff spent a night at Antelope Park in Gweru on their way to Bulawayo on Tuesday for team building purposes, coach Houghton says the target is to win the competition.
“My expectation, as is the expectation of the whole team, is to win this qualifying tournament. Simple as that!” he said.
Zimbabwe are in Group A alongside Singapore, USA and Jersey, while Group B comprises Netherlands, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Hong Kong and Uganda.
The team begins its campaign against Singapore on July 11 before entertaining Jersey the following day and a tricky USA tie completes the country’s group stage fixtures on July 13.
Top two teams in the groups will progress to the semi-finals and Zimbabwe need to reach at least the final to guarantee participation at this year’s World Cup.
Houghton also spoke about the stopover in Gweru.
“It was a good and very relaxing day and good time together, although a bit cold. We saw a fair amount of game, had a good braai together and had a team chat this morning (Wednesday) for me to get our approach and style of play across,” he said.
“It is vital that we are preparing in Bulawayo and at Queens Sports Club. We will get used to the wickets, their pace and how much they spin among other things.
‘It is also important to get a feel of the size of the boundary and pace of the outfield. So being here (early) is an advantage,” he said.
Some of the players who have reportedly been affected by the return of Williams, Masakadza and Ngarava include Donald Tiripano and young Dion Myers as well as Brad Evans.
The team had its first training in Bulawayo yesterday morning.
ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier B match schedule:
l Zimbabwe v Singapore 09h00, Queens Sports Club
l Jersey v USA, 09h00, Bulawayo Athletic Club
l Netherlands v PNG, 13h00, Queens Sports Club
l Hong Kong v Uganda, 13h00, Bulawayo Athletic Club
l Zimbabwe v Jersey, 09h00, Queens Sports Club
l Singapore v USA, 09h00, Bulawayo Athletic Club
l Netherlands v Hong Kong, 13h00, Queens Sports Club
l PNG v Uganda, 13h00, Bulawayo Athletic Club
l Netherlands v Uganda, 09h00, Queens Sports Club
l PNG v Hong Kong, 09h00, Bulawayo Athletic Club
l Zimbabwe v USA, 13h00, Queens Sports Club
l Singapore v Jersey, 13h00, Bulawayo Athletic Club
l A3 v B4, 09h00, Queens Sports Club
l B3 v A4, 09:00, Bulawayo Athletic Club
l Semi Final 1 (A1 v B2), 09h00, Queens Sports Club
l Semi Final 2 (B2 v A1), 13h00, Bulawayo Athletic Club
l 5th/6th Place play-off, 09h00, Queens Sports Club
l 7th/8th Place play-off, 09h00, Bulawayo Athletic Club
l Final, 13h00, Queens Sports Club
l 3rd/4th Place play-off, 13h00, Bulawayo Athletic Club