T20 WC, Zimbabwe aim to get opponents in a spin


It doesn’t do to take Zimbabwe lightly, as Australia discovered in their opening match of the 2007 World Twenty20.
Australia started the encounter in Cape Town as though they intended to hit every ball to the boundary and quickly found themselves in trouble, struggling to 138 for nine.
With Brendan Taylor hitting an unbeaten 60, Zimbabwe won by five wickets with a ball to spare.
It wasn’t enough to get Zimbabwe through to the next stage because they lost their remaining pool match against England and were squeezed out on run rate.
New Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher is confident his side can cause another upset in the 2010 tournament which starts on Friday.
They are in the same pool as New Zealand and Sri Lanka, with both matches scheduled for Guyana, where the Providence Stadium pitch is likely to suit Zimbabwe’s spin-based attack.
Just how effective that attack can be was shown in Zimbabwe’s most recent Twenty20 international, against the West Indies in Port of Spain in February, when the West Indies could manage only 79 for seven in reply to Zimbabwe’s 105. All but two overs were sent down by slow bowlers.
The spinners were successful again when Zimbabwe won the first one-day international against the West Indies at the Providence Stadium four days later.
Zimbabwe couldn’t sustain that form, losing all four remaining one-dayers, but they will be better acquainted with the conditions in the Caribbean than virtually all their rivals.
After the T20 and one-day international tour in February and March, Zimbabwe returned to the West Indies more than two weeks ahead of the start of the World T20 to play a four-day match and two one-day games against West Indies A, ahead of official warm-up games against Australia and Pakistan.
Unlike most other countries, Zimbabwe’s preparations were not affected by the participation of any of their players in the Indian Premier League.
“There is plenty of talent within the squad and although I have only been doing the job for a few weeks I am very optimistic and excited about the future,” Butcher told AFP from the West Indies.
“I’m certainly not making any big statements about our prospects in the T20, but every team is capable of an upset. All it takes is a quick 50 or 60, a couple of tight bowling spells, or even just a brilliant catch to change the course of a game.”
Veteran left-armer Ray Price is the most experienced spinner. He is backed by the off-spin of skipper Prosper Utseya and newcomer Greg Lamb and the leg-breaks of Graeme Cremer.
Fielding has long been a strength of Zimbabwe teams and the spinners can expect athletic and aggressive support in the field.
Zimbabwe’s reliance on slow bowling is partly a result of a dearth of fast bowlers in the country, although Chris Mpofu made a claim for inclusion in the starting line-up when he took seven for 37 in the first innings of the four-day match against West Indies A.
Batting has been a problem area.
Wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu is a potential match-winner, although there are several individuals capable of good performances, including Taylor, Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza.
Hard-hitting left-hander Andy Blignaut has been recalled after five years and he and Elton Chigumbura will be expected to provide explosive hitting in the closing overs of an innings.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2010

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