Zimbabwe vs West Indies, the story so far

Posted by brmtaylor.com admin on December 05, 2007

Three matches in to the series, and Zimbabwe have been a mixed bag. With one win and two losses, a series victory looks unlikely, but not impossible. Should Zimbabwe make minor structural changes and spend more time waiting for the good balls, Zimbabwe could make a series comeback.

There is no doubt Zimbabwe has the raw talent to defeat West Indies. We saw this in the first ODI, when a number of batsmen passed 25. Chamu Chibhabha and Stuart Matsikenyeri led the way with blistering half-centuries, well supported at the top of the order by Brendan Taylor's quickfire 27 which got the team off on the right foot.

Chibhabha played patiently, while maintaining a good run rate. Zimbabwe went on to post 274, which was always going to be beyond an unacclimatised West Indian lineup. The bowling was extraordinary, led by strike bowler Elton Chigumbura. Even Chamu Chibhabha utilised his medium pacers to make a meal of the West Indies lower order.

But despite a comprehensive win in the first match, the second and third were embarassing, to say the least. Nothing has clicked since that first win. Not once has a batsman scored a half century since the first match - neither times has the team passed 180.

The bowling hasn't been terrible. Elton Chigumbura, who is the leading wicket taker in the series, and the returning Ray Price, have been fantastic. Chigumbura has bowled at an economy of under 5, and is averaging 18 with the ball. Ray Price hasn't taken a wicket, but has been economical through the middle overs.

Prosper Utseya has been more expensive then usual, and without the ability to take wickets at regular intervals, it leaves him slightly exposed. Gary Brent, besides his first two or three overs in each match, has been below his usual standard.

At various points throughout the series, each of the batsmen has played a part. However, Elton Chigumbura is the teams only strike bowler. It is unfair to rely on Chigumbura and Brent to open the bowling, before turning to part-timers like Chibhabha and Hamilton Masakadza to bowl out the powerplay overs. This is why another specialist pace bowler must be in the starting eleven.

Chris Mpofu is the man for the job. He has a bowling average of 36 in ODI's, which by Zimbabwean standards is reasonably good. His is also one of the quicker bowlers in Zimbabwe, and can share the all important new ball partnership with Elton Chigumbura.

Who makes way? It is a tough one, because no batsman has done particularly badly. Hamilton Masakadza hasn't been scoring runs at the required strike rate for ODI's, so he would seem like the obvious omission - he will soon make his way back into the team though, as talented players always do.

Finally, the Zimbabwean batsmen need to build partnerships. Even if it means batting at less than 4 runs an over for the first 30 overs, they need to keep wickets in hand. One batsman needs to knuckle down and make a big score, and two or three batsmen need to play the supporting role, by adding 40 or 50 themselves.

If another fast bowler comes in to the team, and Zimbabwe manage to hold on to 6 or 7 wickets for the last 20 overs in each of the remaining matches, Zimbabwe could still win this series.