'Bring on the Proteas!'

HARARE - The long wait is almost over for new Zimbabwe cricket coach Steve Mangongo.

Zimbabwe host giants South Africa in a one-off Test match at Harare Sports Club beginning on August 9 with the world’s attention firmly fixed on the tie and keen to see how lightweight Zimbabweans will perform against Test cricket’s highest ranked side.

South Africa jets in the country today for a series comprising a single Test match and three One-Day Internationals.

Australia will then arrive to join the two neighbouring countries in a triangular series and have named a strong squad for the games, beginning on August 25.

Mangongo, who has previously coached the side on caretaker basis, recently took over substantively from Andy Waller, who has been “elevated” to the position of director of coaching.

For now until ZC appoints his assistants, the renowned development stalwart will have to be content with doing it all alone.

“Yes, it’s too much on a plate for one man, it’s hard, but we gonna do it because that’s what we are here for,” Mangongo told the Daily News yesterday.

“We would have loved to have more time to prepare but we are doing everything possible to make sure that we are ready for competition when the game roars to life on Saturday.”

Mangongo feels Zimbabwe’s lacklustre performance against Afghanistan in the just-ended tour has given him an idea about the areas he needs to work on.

Zimbabwe blew a 2-0 lead in the ODI series to draw two all with the emerging Asian nation before a four-day game series was also drawn 1-1.

“From the bowling front, we were inconsistent, we bowled below par,” Mangongo said.

“On the batting side we looked to play too many big shots and failed to rotate the strike and it was an embarrassment losing to an associate nation. Our fielding was very pathetic hence we need to up our entire game if we are to compete against the best.”

There were some positives though picked from the Zimbabwe A squad, with a couple of players raising their hands up for selection. 

Among them was former Test batsman Mark Vermeulen, who scored a century in the team’s 35-run defeat to the Asian side in the first of the four-day match series at Country Club.

Youthful all-rounder Luke Jongwe also showed glimpses of promise while wicketkeeper-batsman Richmond Mutumbami was also consistent.

Seamers Neville Madziva and Cuthbert Musoko starred with the ball in Zim A’s eight-wicket win in the last match with three wickets apiece, giving Mangongo a large field of players to select his best from.

“I am a firm believer in competition and no one has a monopoly in selection,” he said.

“These fringe players are going to put pressure to everyone in the team and guys are looking forward to challenging the status quo. We pick people on merit based on the statistics and I don’t see any reason why we should be afraid to reward those with the best results.”

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