11 July 2017

Zimbabwe: Chevrons Victory Against Sri Lanka 'Beautiful'

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The first thing is to loudly applaud Zimbabwe Cricket on a golden day. The cricketers who triumphantly tamed Sri Lanka in their backyard to end a 16-year series drought were both entertaining and hard to resist.

For a side plagued by self-doubt for as long as most can remember, for a side that had become whipping boys to Associates, the very fact that Zimbabwe came back from 1-2 behind to pull it off 3-2 is a thing of devastating power, of a certain beauty, a chemistry of destiny.

The image of Heath Streak charging in like a Matebele bull from the City end at Harare Sports Club in front of a packed and vociferous crowd, with the pint-sized Tatenda Taibu diving to collect the outside edge, still resonates. The two patriots have teamed up again, this time in different capacities, to deliver a previously unidentified steel within the team.

Full credit to the Head coach and Convenor of selectors for building structures and stability when neither exists in the society at large. Strong management and uncomplicated coaching has evidently brought smiles in the dressing room as a net effect.

Lance "Zulu Warrior" has also been chipping away with the batters and the aggression he played with is starting to rub on to the boys, the kind that fuelled that record chase in the first ODI. Although the bowing department had shortcomings during this tour, Makhaya Ntini had the enjoyment factor when he played during his illustrious career, and you could see the same verve throughout the series. Even the jumping hand clap came out of the closet, last seen when Raymond Price and Chris Mpofu last took to the park.

The word on the street is that Zimbabwe are worth watching again. Those who hold it dear are excited. Without suggesting that the team is on course to top the ODI rankings, we can say that a corner has been turned. They still have an audience to win back and a win away from home against a top ranked side is not a bad start.

The key ingredient that delivered the series win was the mindset. Suddenly, it looked as if the shackles had been thrown off, and it appears the team is starting to play with a genuine freedom of spirit.

Solomon Mire is one of Zimbabwe's harbingers of change in this regard. The Midlands product sought greener pastures when his own people could not realise his obvious ability. Only when he started making the right noises Down Under did he finally get a call up. Mire backs the eye before method and uses the remarkable power and sense of timing to make sweet contact.

Zimbabwe cricketer Hamilton Masakadza plays a shot during the third one-day international (ODI) cricket match between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe at the Suriyawewa Mahinda Rajapakse International Cricket Stadium in the southern district of Hambantota on July 6, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI

His destructive aggression seemed to have rejuvenated his opening partner Hamilton Masakadza. At franchise level Masakadza bullies bowling attacks, but until this series we hadn't witnessed this at the international stage.

In this series Masakadza understood responsibility and basically resurrected his career that otherwise seemed to be on its last legs. No boundary is big enough when Masakadza is at his best, and in all the successful run-chases during the series he got the team off to a solid start. Getting down on one knee and sweeping Lasith Malinga gave 'Mdara Hamy' street cred.

The batting order seems to have finally found a balance based on what each individual offers. They had to call Craig Ervine 'slug' he moves so slow. Do not let that deceive you though, the boy can bat. His calmness kept the series alive in the fourth ODI in a pressure situation and his ability to pace the innings makes him an ideal number three.

Although Sean Williams did not set the series alight with the bat his dynamic style demonstrated a template on how to play spin on subcontinent wickets plus the added bonus of taking crucial wickets with ball in hand.

Young Tarisai Musakanda was given another crack and he did not disappoint. He came up with handy contributions and even though he threw away two good starts his exuberance of youth should be encouraged.

Perhaps the unsung hero from this historic series win is Sikander Raza. The man is becoming a master of run-chases. There is something artistic in his batting, an uncomplicated man going about a complicated task unusually well. His cameos at the back-end of the innings are like gold dust, no one wants the team to do well more than him and it was befitting that he hit the winning runs of the series.

It all bodes well for the future, but if Zimbabwe are to really cause regular upsets there is need to hunt for quality bowlers who bowl with variety. Tendai Chatara threatened in Sri Lanka but he hasn't looked the same since his leg injury. It is encouraging that there are a bunch of youngsters currently touring the UK, another visionary move by Taibu, perhaps quick bowlers to set the tone upfront can be unearthed.

Zimbabwe

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