Zim A; the happier side

HARARE - The majority of the country's cricketers have been starved of first class action as Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC), like most companies continue to feel the financial burden.

So when it was announced that a strong South African A team would play Zimbabwe A in two four-day matches, the announcement was met with mixed reviews.

Most of the cricket deprived fans were very happy to not only see the likes of Vernon Philander, Dane Vilas, Hardus Viljoen Stiaan van Zyl and the highly spoken duo of Theunis de Bruyn and Omphile Ramela in action, but they would get to see this fine selection of players in action for four days, depending on how well Zimbabwe A played of course.

The sprinkling of fans who made the trip to Harare Sports Club were undoubtedly treated to some good old fashion four day cricket, on a pitch which admittedly was flatter than the proverbial pancake, and had absolutely no terrors in it for the batsmen, though for the majority of the batsmen, scoring seemed difficult due to the slowness of the pitch...

It would be a crying shame to see ZC continually opting to prepare such lifeless pitches for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Harare Sports Club has always been a pitch that has provided assistance for the seamers, especially for the first hour or so of play, and by preparing slow and sluggish pitches, may possibly send negative messages to batsmen, and they will never learn how to better their technique against bowlers who swing the ball, especially when touring countries such as South Africa, New Zealand Australia and England, though the last three mentioned countries are mentioned with a tinge of optimism.

Secondly, for many a long year, we have been scouring the country to try and develop genuine pace bowlers, however this will never come to fruition if we continue to prepare slow and low pitches, which makes run scoring laborious and fast bowling pointless.

The match itself at times delivered pleasing cricket from both sides, and you would probably think that South Africa A had high and to be fair, realistic hopes of sealing the deal on the final day.

But Tino Mawoyo, who has been spending more time in the commentary box than on the pitch of late, knuckled down and showed tremendous grit and stamina in the second innings, despite a nasty bout of flue.

Stephen Cook's declaration an hour into the fourth and final day left Zimbabwe A with the unenviable task of either trying to chase down a total of 358 to win, or to fight for their lives and force a rain draw, and that was exactly what they did.

Granted, the pitch had no demons in it, not even for off spinner Dane Piedt, who took three wickets in Zimbabwe A's first innings, and by rights should have posed more of a threat in the final innings.

But when Zimbabwe A's first innings hero Brian Chari departed for 13 with the total on 15, an audible moan went through the media centre, as all to familiar visions of second innings collapses were discussed at length.

However, Mawoyo and Prince Masvaure entrenched themselves at the crease and defied the odds in a stoic manner, as they nudged and nerdled their way to safety, thanks to their unbroken second wicket stand of 177.

One way to get yourself into form as a batsmen, is to face a lot of balls in the middle in a pressure situation, and although Mawoyo's innings may be perceived as long and at times torturous, his 205 ball innings of 79* was exactly what the doctor ordered in preparation for the New Zealand tour which gets underway in two weeks time.

The surprise package of the second innings was Masvaure, who started off in a scratchy and uncertain fashion, but then grew in confidence and eventually out scored his more senior partner with his unbeaten 88 which included 11 fours and a six.

The next four day match between the two teams starts today at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo, and it will be interesting to see the make-up of the squad which will surely see some of the senior players come into the team.

*I would like to apologise for the silence in recent months, but it was not deliberate as I was experiencing challenges with my phone’s software which allows me to write articles.

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