Blown out of the water

HARARE - After Zimbabwe's win in the warm up match, the words quietly confident were more than likely been used in the team’s changing room when they arrived at the ground for the first of three One Day Internationals on Friday.

The decision of Brendan Taylor to bowl only sparked a mild raising of the eyebrows, as Granada had quite a bit of rain the day before the match, and it was felt that the pitch may just have some moisture in it.

But, instead of moisture, the pitch had plenty of runs, thanks to a combination of some outrageously poor bowling, ordinary fielding from Zimbabwe, as well as an excellent batting wicket by the hosts.

There were times when the bowlers were able to apply a bit of pressure, but, those times were very few and far between, as the West Indian batsmen were allowed to cut, pull and drive down the ground at will.

A few strange observations came to mind.

The first, was that both Kyle Jarvis, and especially Chris Mpofu continuously bowled length balls, instead of full length balls towards the close of the West Indian innings.

In the 49th over, Mpofu presented Daren Bravo with a few friendly gifts when he opted to bowl short of a length, instead of a full length yorker.

And in the 50th over, Jarvis bowled a bouncer when the fine leg fielder was up in the circle.

Bowling a bouncer was probably not a bad idea, as the batsman would have been expecting a full length yorker, and, the bouncer may have taken him by surprise.

But, if you want to use the element of surprise, you have to ensure that you are ready to back your plan up.

So surely the fine leg fielder should have been on the boundary waiting to gleefully accept the catch off a miscued hook shot.

But, the fielder was up in the circle which means that bowling full and straight would have been the order of the day.

The West Indies total of 337 was always going to be a tough ask, and, to be honest, not many people gave Zimbabwe a chance of successfully chasing it down.

Not because Zimbabwe were not capable, but, because they had not played ODI cricket since last February.

But, what everybody expected was a positive attempt in getting close to the total.

The pitch held absolutely no terrors in it from a fast bowling point of view, and it did not show any signs of keeping low or braking up, which meant that the spinners were not going to pose much of a threat either.

But, from the very beginning, Zimbabwe appeared to show no inclination, nor interest to make a game of it.

Vusi Sibanda was the only batsman in the top order who showed some willingness, but his innings came to a premature end after a poorly judged lbw decision saw him depart for 12 which included the shot of the day when he disdainfully hooked Tino Best into the stands for six.

After that, absolutely nobody showed any sign of positive intent, and, the age old problem of the batsman not rotating the strike allowed the West Indies to dictate the match.  I have to continue to question Prosper Utseya's position in the team.

Not only because of his loss of form at international level and in particular, the 50 over format, but, his entire body language leaves a lot to be desired.

What would he be wanting to achieve by scoring 18 runs off no less than 67 balls? We most certainly are well past the stage of just wanting to survive and bat out the 50 overs?

Most of the players have been around long enough to know that the team has progressed beyond that stage now.

And yet, it seems as if Utseya needs to be reminded that cricket is a team sport, and not an individual sport.

We have to keep reminding ourselves that this was Zimbabwe's first ODI for over a year, and that we should try not to be too harsh on the players.

But, Friday's performance lacked any form of enthusiasm or fight.

Another worrying factor is the DRS (decision review system).

Sibanda was given out lbw, and after a short consultation with his opening partner Chamu Chibhabha, it was decided that they would not take the review.

Replays showed that the ball would not have gone on to hit the stumps, which meant that Sibanda should not have been given out.

They had the choice to use the DRS, but, they chose not to.

Now this is no fault of the batsman whatsoever!!!

We have no DRS in this country because of the huge amount of money it costs.

But a time is going to come when we will have to somehow acquire the DRS, as most of the countries now use it.

The players will have to learn more about it, so that the same mistake does not happen again.

It could have been disastrous if Zimbabwe were chasing 237 instead of 337. Sibanda may very well have gone on to make a score of real significance.

However, all of that is water under the bridge, and everybody will be focused on today’s encounter which will hopefully see Zimbabwe show more fighting spirit. -
Dean du Plessis

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