Batsmen let themselves down again

HARARE - After Zimbabwe's historical win on Sunday, no one was entirely sure how yesterday’s game against South Africa would go.

There was a general perception that Zimbabwe had peaked and that they wouldn't be able to match their performance of Sunday again.

This perception turned out to be a very accurate one as the batsmen once again, with the exception of Brendan Taylor had only themselves to blame for the 63 run loss.

South Africa totalled 270-6 before bowling out the Zimbabweans for 208 to confirm their place in the final of the tri-series with Australia.

At times, Zimbabwe showed good spirit in the field, especially with the cheap dismissals of Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers.

But as has been the case in so many previous occasions, the home side were unable to deliver the knockout punch when they had South Africa in a bit of trouble at 120-4. 

Instead, Faf du Plessis, who in my opinion is the world's most consistent number three batsman, calmly went about resurrecting the innings, which was in danger of falling apart at the seams.

Du Plessis once again showed his diversity by knuckling down and holding the innings together, and then exploding into life and plundering the bowling to all corners of the ground when the time came to up the tempo.

For once Steve Mangongo could be forgiven if he had a rant and a rave at the batsmen after the game in the dressing room, provided the ranting and raving didn't become personal of course.

But to be blunt, he would have been within his rights to express disappointment.

Zimbabwe had matters under control with five overs to spare, before du Plessis and to a lesser extent David Miller and Wayne Parnell gleefully accepted the rubbish delivered by the Zimbabwean seamers.

Because that is exactly what those last five overs were.

Tendai Chatara and young Neville Madziva started off nicely, but were all over the shop so to speak when it really mattered.

Although the seamers are pretty young and reasonably inexperienced, most cricket lovers will tell you that you should always be able to bowl yorkers at the end of the innings.

This is an area that bowling coach Dougie Hondo will have to address with immediate effect if Zimbabwe have any hopes of learning how to wrap up proceedings in this format of the game.

They won't always be playing on low and slow turning wickets, and when they get to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year, most of the pitches will be hard and quite a bit quicker with more bounce and considerably more pace.

Which begs another question.

Why are these low and slow pitches being prepared when we have a World Cup around the corner?

The answer would obviously be to suit the Zimbabwean spinners.

But we have to start preparing for the harder and bouncier pitches in Australia, and even New Zealand, and low and slow turning wickets can only cause more problems next year.

Are there any positives to take from this last month of international cricket?

The main one would naturally be the three wicket win over Australia on Sunday.

But from a team point of view, we don't have a great deal to jump up and down about.

Some of the younger players were thrust into the lime light way to soon, and I can only hope that their careers haven't been ruined by this act of unnecessary haste.

But, there are a few names that are definitely worth mentioning.

John Nyumbu has shown that he is capable of playing all formats of the game.

He is also capable of taking the new ball, and getting bounce which is a spinner's best friend.

Elton Chigumbura seems to have matured nicely as a captain.

He started of looking rather shell-shocked in the first one day international against South Africa, but then recovered nicely as the series gained momentum.

Prosper Utseya has undergone a total transformation and you get the feeling that he will be greatly liked for his sudden change.

His posture and body language has changed, and he joins in with loud and constructive encouragement as well.

Another big difference in this series was that Prosper was actually used as an attacking bowler, and the rewards he reaped was a hat-trick and career best figures, all in the same match.

One only hopes that the bowling tests he has to undergo won't negatively affect his bowling.

We have been wanting Prosper Utseya to stamp his authority as a wicket taking spinner, and a lower order batsman who doesn't just hang around, but who also scores runs when he has to, and we saw all of that in this series.

Zimbabwe's main areas of concern are the new ball bowlers, or more particularly, who will share the new ball duties with Tendai Chatara, and then the age old problem that Zimbabwe seem to be plagued with.

The problem of batsmen getting starts, and then getting out.

Sikandar Raza Butt, Hamilton Masakadza and a few more have got starts on countless occasions, and then given their wickets away at crucial time. But how that problem will be rectified remains to be seen.

Whether it is because Zimbabwe aren't playing enough international cricket against quality opposition, or whether it's because they simply aren't in the league of the top teams, regardless of how much cricket they play is debatable.

Are the players happy with the current coaching staff and selection panel?

Probably not.

Do they have a say in the matter?

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