Robert continues our series on World T20 previews – this time, Zimbabwe, the African underdogs. They’re capable of springing surprises, but will they even get past Hong Kong?
Zimbabwe are in many ways the bridge in this competition between the associate nations and the other full members. The chances of them tripping up to Hong Kong and failing to qualify and that of them upsetting Sri Lanka or England seem equally likely, and neither scenario is far-fetched. As such, they’re the team with the fortunes hardest to predict.
Their recent T20 form is somewhat patchy. They followed up a 2-0 loss to Afghanistan with a 2-2 away series draw to Asia Cup finalists Bangladesh, primarily on the back of a Man of the Series performance from batsman Hamilton Masakadza. They comprehensively defeated Ireland in a warm-up match last week but that itself came on the back of an embarrassing thrashing at the hands of Indian domestic side Himachal Pradesh.
Zimbabwe probably can’t afford to drop any games in the qualifying stage, but of particular importance is their Saturday clash against Afghanistan, who are not only the next most likely qualifier but have also become a bit of a bogey side for Zimbabwe in recent times. Zimbabwe have played Afghanistan four times in T20Is over the last year and lost all four games, on top of losing five of their seven ODIs against them.
Hamilton Masakadza – Every so often Hamilton has a bad run of form and gets dropped from the Zimbabwean limited overs sides, but on every occasion he’s made the selectors look silly by scoring a truckload of runs domestically, earning a recall and then carrying that form over into the internationals. His recent T20 International form has been outstanding, averaging over 40 at a strike rate of over 130, and these statistics exclude his good warmup form. Perhaps even more striking were his T20 domestic performances this season, where he averaged 114 at a strike rate of 175 over 7 innings, including a career best 162* off 71 balls. Having recently taken over the captaincy from the out-of-form Elton Chigumbura, and with the injury to leg spinner Graeme Cremer, Hamilton Masakadza is now by far Zimbabwe’s most important player.
Sean Williams – Williams combination of classy strike rotation and drifting left-arm spin has always been more suited to the longer forms, but he’s still always a key player for Zimbabwe in subcontinent conditions. His nimble footwork and propensity to both sweep and reverse sweep as a left-hander brings back memories of Andy Flower, and while Hamilton has the form and the power game, Williams is the classiest bat in the side. His left arm spin is under-rated and he’s now quite arguably the first choice spinner in the squad, always an important art in Asian T20 tournaments. He’ll be a key through the middle overs whether Zimbabwe are batting or bowling.
Tendai Chatara – Zimbabwe’s bowling attack has been decimated through injury in the lead-up to this tournament, but one positive will be the return of fast bowler Chatara after a long lay off himself. Chatara was out for nine months with a broken shin and is still working his way back into full fitness but with Cremer, Jongwe and Madziva all missing, Chatara offers the only proven strike option in the squad. His form upon return has been patchy so he’s no certain starter, but if Zimbabwe are to make strides in this tournament he will most likely be a big part of it.
Malcolm Waller – Waller has taken many forms as a cricketer but his most recent incarnation seems to be that of a big-hitting T20 finisher. He’s been giving a floating role and usually comes in with around seven overs remaining in the innings. If Masakadza, Sibanda and Williams can lay a good platform, Waller has shown he can play some extremely damaging innings to finish off good totals.
1. Hamilton Masakadza *
2. Vusi Sibanda
3. Richmond Mutambami +
4. Sean Williams
5. Malcolm Waller
6. Peter Moor
7. Elton Chigumbura
8. Tendai Chisoro
9. Wellington Masakadza
10. Tinashe Panyagara
11. Tendai Chatara