The Pakistan match was always going to be a 50-50 match as you never really know which Pakistan team will turn up. So far throughout the tournament, it had been the bad team and we in Zimbabwe were hopeful they would turn up against us as well. The last time we had met Pakistan, we had beaten them in the Test series so we were pretty confident that we had this. And sure enough, the bad Pakistan team turned up and we restricted them to 235.
In the lead up to the game, we were confident of upstaging Pakistan, and the injuries to Chamu Chibhabha and Solomon Mire were talking points. Luckily they were fit for the encounter, resulting in what many agreed was the strongest team we could field. Tawanda Mupariwa too made a comeback to the team after being dropped for being ‘too slow’, with Alistair Campbell famously quoting that the only way he could make it into the team was if he batted like England’s Paul Collingwood.
A Pakistan fan ruffled some feathers on Zimbabwe cricket forums with this statement: “There is no way and I MEAN no way that Pakistan is losing tonight. You folks are only good enough to give teams like Ireland a fight, your World Cup dream ends tonight. Pakistan is going to destroy your team and win the World Cup.” He certainly had the last laugh.
Throughout the innings, the mood was bullish as Zimbabwe strangled Pakistan, resulting in the usual calls for Misbah-ul-Haq’s head. We almost became the victims of another record as Misbah neared his maiden One-Day International century.
Although we were better at the death, or was it that Pakistan were not that good, there were still calls for Panyangara not to be bowling at this stage of the game. I agree he should bowl his ten overs on the trot while the ball is still hard. Even the minister of information, media and broadcasting services, tweeted: “# ZimCricket. Massive wicket taken. Real pressure now on Pakistan. Go Chevrons Go!” Not often do we have politicians tweeting about cricket.
Needing only 236, the only thing in our way was a batting collapse, a reality that any avid Zimbabwe supporter knows too well. Nigeltkay tweeted: “Just 101 more needed. I hope the boys don’t collapse like they usually do at such critical stages of the game”
The umpires were not to be left out of the action, as we are coming to expect in games involving Zimbabwe. DJ in the comments of a cricket website had this to say: “Umpires haven’t given good decisions. There were at least 3-4 front-foot no-balls and some wides missed. If umpires’ decisions were correct, then the result might be different. Better luck next time Zimbabwe.”
Another by the username Boundary Rider said: “Zimbabwe seem to be having a run of dubious decisions against them. Brendan Taylor for one, being given out on a referral and even the commentators could not see how. The Zimbabwe bowlers getting wides for their bouncers and then the opposition don’t.” I wonder if Zimbabwe Cricket can send a complaint to the ICC about the quality of umpiring?
Credit to the Pakistan fast bowlers, Mohammed Irfan and Wahab Riaz, who made sure Zimbabwe would not get their way. We didn’t get off to the flyer that we expected. Taylor laboured to 50 and Sean Williams chipped in with 33, leaving too much for an injured Elton Chigumbura, and we succumbed to yet another loss. The proverbial ‘snatching defeat from the jaws of victory’.
It was a loss that has dealt a blow to supporters of Zimbabwe cricket. Eugene on the cricket forum summed up the mood: “This is surely one of the most soul-destroying defeats we have experienced. We should have cantered home with five overs and five wickets to spare, instead we manufacture a defeat which in the end wasn’t even all that close. When we really need to step up, we just aren’t good enough, and that includes Williams, Hammy and Taylor.”
Twitter user Siryane left us with what we have now become used to: “Zimbabwe always finds the most unremarkable way to win, and the most painful way to lose.” Despite this, we can still make it to the quarterfinals, our world cup campaign will be determined on Saturdaywhen we take on an in-form Ireland, who will be playing to prove that they belong with the very best in cricket. This for me will be the match of the tournament for Zimbabwe and we need to win this.
This article was first published by Wisden India