Zim take on Hong Kong

MUMBAI - Zimbabwe cricket captain Hamilton Masakadza is hopeful his side will reach the Super 10 stage of this year’s ICC World Twenty20 which starts in India today.

Masakadza and his teammates begin their campaign this morning with a Group B qualification match against Hong Kong at the VCA Stadium in Nagpur.

“From where we are starting, we can only go forward from there. We didn’t have the best of years in 2015 in terms of results and I believe we can only get better,” Masakadza said.

“The guys are really looking forward to the tournament and are all very motivated to start getting the positive results.”

Newly-appointed bowling coach Makhaya Ntini is pleased with the amount of warm-up matches the side has played prior to today’s clash against Hong Kong.

“We are fortunate that we have got the time to be able to train hard and play practice matches before the World T20 tournament,” he said.

“I’m sure all those factors are going to put us in a better position come the actual tournament and I’m confident the boys will be ready.”

Zimbabwe had the perfect start in the ICC World Twenty20, getting the better of Australia in its first match in the inaugural edition in 2007.

The team has not quite hit those highs in subsequent editions, but this time around, there is a composed look to the squad, and Zimbabwe can be expected to live up to its reputation of being a good side in the shortest format.

One bit of misfortune the side had was with the injuries that ruled out the trio of Graeme Cremer, Luke Jongwe and Neville Madziva.

However, there is still enough experience in the ranks to inspire a surprise or two.

Losing three quality players to injury little over a week before a big event is not ideal but that’s what Zimbabwe is dealt with and it will have to regroup in quick time.

The good thing is, it’s playing teams which it has gotten the better of in the past and it has brought in three capable players — Chamu Chibhabha, Tawanda Murapiwa and Donald Tiripano — as replacements.

The other teams in the group — Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Scotland — don’t have the collective experience Zimbabwe can boast of, and that advantage could just make the difference in Zimbabwe’s quest for a Super 10s berth.

Zimbabwe’s strength lies in its ability to keep it tight. The team does not possess a batting line-up full of big names or an express pace unit, but it has the clinical elements of each of those facets and getting them together has resulted in a fair few victories for the side in the shortest format.

With fielding traditionally good among Zimbabwe sides, the team will back itself to top the group.

Since Brendan Taylor called it quits, Sean Williams has taken over the role as one of the team’s leading batsmen with intensity.

The left-hander from Bulawayo has a good record and he offers an interesting mix of steady scoring and aggressive run-gathering depending on the situation.

He is also very useful with his left-arm spin bowling. Williams has had great success with the side in the ODI format, and for Zimbabwe to progress in the tournament, much will depend on the 29-year-old delivering consistently.

Since making their international debut in 2004, Hong Kong have made steady progress in the game’s shortest format and qualified for two ICC World Twenty20s.

The team comprises some good allrounders, who have formed the pillar of its success in recent times.

Since the ICC World T20 2014 in Bangladesh, Hong Kong have won bilateral affairs against Nepal and Afghanistan, while sharing the honours in a two-match series against Scotland.

In the ICC World T20 Qualifier 2015 in Ireland and Scotland, Hong Kong won four matches to make it to the main tournament. — ICC

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