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Zimbabwe have potential but need exposure

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Zimbabwe cricket team’s 19-run win over Pakistan in the second Twenty20 international in Harare last month was their first-ever win over the team that has played the most matches in the format.

Zimbabwe gave more than a good account of themselves in the three-match T20I series, losing the first narrowly by 11 runs before winning the second, only to lose the decider by 24 runs.

Not only are Pakistan veterans of the shortest format, but they are also the only national team to have registered more than a 100 T20I wins. The contrast between the two sides is starker when you see that in the past decade, Zimbabwe have played the least number of T20Is out of the 12 Test-playing nations - just 71. Even Ireland and Afghanistan have played more.

And therein lies the age-old lament of Zimbabwe cricket. While they certainly have promise, they haven’t played against the top sides enough to build on their potential and gain experience.

The gap between them and the established teams has only grown since Zimbabwe cricket went through all its problems, including mismanagement, financial woes and the exodus of numerous leading players.

They even ended up putting themselves through a six-year exile from Test cricket. Since their return in August 2011, they have played all of 30 Test matches - easily the lowest among the ten legacy Test teams. In the same period, England have played 121 and India 97.

The so-called Big Three teams – Australia, England and India – have not played a single Test against Zimbabwe in the past decade.

Still, even in the longest format, Zimbabwe’s promise has been visible. Upon their return from exile in 2011, Zimbabwe defeated Bangladesh at home. They also prevailed in Bangladesh’s Sylhet in 2018 where the conditions are certainly not suitable for any non-Asian team. Above all was the historic win over Pakistan at home in 2013.

No wonder Pakistan came hard at them in the first Test of the two-match series last week in Harare. The Zimbabwe batsmen could not even last for four sessions collectively across two innings and lost inside three days as they barely get to play against top attacks.

It will be interesting to see what improvement they can show in the final Test match starting on Friday in Harare. Expectations should be tempered with the fact that this will only be their 20th Test in ten years against an opposition that is neither Bangladesh nor Afghanistan.

Featured Image: AFP/ Jesesai Njikizana

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