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Zimbabwe's biggest challenge exposed

by Staff reporter
22 Aug 2022 at 07:01hrs | Views
TO say that Zimbabwe's cricket team batting woes start at the top would be an understatement. Their last century partnership for the first wicket in ODIs was way back in 2014, when Hamilton Masakadza and Sikandar Raza added 224.

Since the start of 2020, Zimbabwe have used 14 different opening combinations – the most among all teams – with few results. Their average opening stand of 15 in this period is the second worst.

Zimbabwe, though, had a good start to 2022 with Regis Chakabva and Takudzwanashe Kaitano adding 80 and 59 in the first two ODIs against Sri Lanka in Pallekele. But Kaitano's indifferent form saw him in and out of the XI, and Chakabva moved up and down the order, resulting in instability at the top.

Kaitano returned for the second ODI against India and looked happy to bide his time against the new ball before fiddling at one outside off to be out for 7 off 32 balls. Chakabva, who has opened in 24 of his 53 ODI innings, batted at No. 6 in the first match and No. 4 in the second to bolster the middle order. But now with the experienced Sean Williams also back in the side, Zimbabwe could try reuniting him with Kaitano to solve their top-order woes.

In both ODIs, India opted to bowl after winning the toss to exploit seam-friendly conditions. But now having sealed the three-match series, they may want to put their batters to the test if they win the toss once again in the third and final ODI at Harare Sports Club today.

KL Rahul, who is playing his first series since IPL 2022, could also do with some time in the middle ahead of the Asia Cup, which starts next week. Raza and Williams are the best batters in this Zimbabwe XI side. Not just now. They have been among the best over the last 10 years. Brendan Taylor, Hamilton Masakadza, Craig Ervine and Elton Chigumbura haven't played – or didn't play – as much as them in this period.

Raza and Williams are also the most experienced batters in this Zimbabwe side.

Now, in a top side, in normal conditions that ODIs are played in, it would be admirable for the two senior batters to take up the most difficult role in 50-overs games: when the field goes out, when the ball becomes soft, and scoring becomes difficult.

Zimbabwe, however, are a side that has been struggling for runs from the top order. Even during their two superb chases of 291 and 304 against Bangladesh, they got off to abysmal starts. They have had scores of 31 for 4, 31 for 4, 18 for 4, 49 for 4, 6 for 2, 42 for 4 and 47 for 2 in their last seven ODIs. The early-morning starts and the movement for the first hour or so during this series have further compounded their top-order problems.

India's new-ball spells in both matches — aided by the movement available to them — have been top-notch. It is not hard to imagine more accomplished batters getting out to what was on offer. Zimbabwe's problems, though, have extended to contests against Bangladesh and Afghanistan too.

Source - ESPNCricinfo