Deathly silence seemed to grip the cricket community in Zimbabwe after the Pakistan game. The hard truth that our chances of making the quarterfinals were over had hit home, with wins over a confident Ireland and India unlikely. A victory for Ireland over Zimbabwe would not only get them into the quarterfinals but also send a message to the ICC that they deserve to be among the Test-playing nations. This was the background coming into a match that offered another interesting finish.
I still don’t understand why we consistently choose to chase, but we won the toss and put Ireland in to bat. If we are sure we are better than teams like Ireland and UAE, then we need to back ourselves to set big totals and then defend them. I feel we gave the match away in the field; that old cliché – drop catches, lose matches – that was drilled into our heads when playing school cricket. When three sitters were put down, the writing was on the wall. ‘Zimcricket Talks’ Facebook group member Prince Butawo Noble commented: “Stuart Matsikenyeri drops a catch, loses his shoe … sums up the first 50 overs”.
Ed Joyce, who had been dropped, then went on to be bowled off a free hit. The last time we got a wicket off a no-ball, Chris Gayle scored 215. Ireland scored 331. The general sentiment at the break was that we couldn’t reach 300, let alone 332.
Our batsmen at the top failed to stamp their authority and I was happy to see Solomon Mire come in at No. 3, because it meant Zimbabwe were willing to experiment. But Mire had to come in with a license to hit, not rebuild the innings. And he departed before making an impact.
Brendan Taylor played a blinder, reaching 5000 runs in One-Day Internationals and his seventh century. He got us back in the game with a hope of a victory.
Sean Williams kept the momentum going and while he was at the crease we knew we were still in with a chance. His dismissal on 96, four short of his maiden ton, was a controversial one, which broke the hearts of Zimbabwean fans and any hope of a win. I say it was not out, and maybe John Mooney was convinced it was out. But in all fairness, he should have said he was not sure.
Some blamed Williams for walking off without hearing the verdict from the umpire – he should have used a review.
Taylor also said after the game, “I thought it was pretty clear (Mooney’s foot touched the rope).”
I would go out on a limb and say it was one of Williams’s sulk moments, where all rational thinking is thrown out the door. Regardless of that, though, the double standards of the ICC were once again brought to the fore. Once a batsman has left the field, he cannot come back in – but we saw Ian Bell come back after the whole tea break in that Test match against India.
That dismissal led @Epicure to tweet: “Wondering which feels emptier, touching the rope and claiming a catch or losing that closely.”
Painful as the loss was, I still give credit to Ireland for pulling this off as they played good cricket and have come with the intention to win. In an interview, William Porterfield confidently stated that he would “collect two points against Zimbabwe and then see what’s next”.
The end, then, was one fans are all too familiar with. As Justin Evans tweeted: “Story of Zim cricket, winning hearts whilst attempting to climb out of the hole they’ve just dug”.
Supporters, however, seem happy with Dav Whatmore.
Earlier in the week, Zimbabwe Cricket offered him a four-year deal, with Wilson Manase, the chairman, saying, “I can confirm that we have agreed a four-year deal with Whatmore.”
Meanwhile, I would be supporting Ireland in the quarterfinals and hope to see them slay a giant or two.
This article was first published by Wisden India