Saturday, June 30, 2018

Aussies shame prophets of doom, touch down in Harare

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Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
AUSTRALIA – one of the three most powerful cricket nations in the world – arrived in Harare yesterday for a Twenty20 International battle against Zimbabwe and Pakistan despite spirited attempts by some forces of darkness for the men from Down Under to scrap the tour.
Those who didn’t want the Aussies to tour were claiming that the country was not safe for them to visit after the barbaric terror event in Bulawayo last Saturday, which has been condemned by all peace-loving people around the world.
The Aussies, together with India and England, are the most powerful brands in world cricket and their visit to this country is a major triumph against the forces of evil who wanted to destabilise this nation. Domestic cricket has been used in the past for political agendas and when the Aussies said they were considering whether to tour, it was celebrated in certain circles in this country.
The arrival of the Aussies is also a major coup for the Zimbabwe Cricket leaders in that they have provided this country with a major weapon to show the world that life is going on as normally as possible here despite the ugly event last Saturday.
The Aussies are coming from a disappointing tour of England where they lost all their five ODIs and the sole Twenty20 International.
Coach Justin Langer says his team will draw important lessons from England’s style of play following their limited-overs whitewash.
“We talk about England now and they are playing brilliant cricket,” Langer told cricket.com.au.
“They are confident, they’re scoring 100s and they’ve been playing together for a long time. They have the core together and they take confidence from it, at the moment we haven’t got that.
“What I do know is we will learn lessons from how England are playing at the moment, but it is hard to compare us because we are at such a different stage of our journey.
“They fielded brilliantly, their running between the wickets was unbelievable, they ran us ragged, they were fearless with the bat and their spinners bowled really well. We’ve had a lot of success for a very long period in one-day cricket in Australia, so we’ll learn a bit from England and a lot from what we’ve done in the past.”
Hosts Zimbabwe will be the underdogs and open the tournament facing the world’s number one T20 side Pakistan at Harare Sports Club tomorrow.
Australia are ranked the third best team in T20. Interim Zimbabwe coach Lalchand Rajput, whose side sits further down the pack on 12th place, has admitted it is a big challenge playing the big boys of international cricket.
Zimbabwe Cricket were yet to officially name their captain yesterday, but sources indicated Hamilton Masakadza will take over the reins from Graeme Cremer, who was sacked following the team’s disappointing performance in the ICC World Cup qualifiers recently.
But Rajput has chosen to look at the positive side after calling a 17-member squad that includes regular starters like Masakadza, Kyle Jarvis, Solomon Mire, Tendai Chisoro, Malcom Waller, PJ Moor, Cephas Zhuwao and Blessing Muzarabani.
Rajput, who has had previous stints with India T20 national team and the Afghanistan side, said he aims to take Zimbabwe to the final after the round robin matches to be played the whole of next week.
“As a coach, you would like to definitely have a goal; you would like to definitely be in the final. That’s the first thing, but my main concern is to prepare them well to play against the top teams in the world, like Pakistan is the top team in the T20 and Australia is one of the top teams in the cricketing world.
“So I think it’s important to prepare them well and in T20, I always believed that there are no favourites.
“In T20, you play very well on that particular day, you win. I think we have got to prepare all our players to play well on a particular day. That’s a challenge, but I think we are going to be more in the direction,” said Rajput.
Zimbabwe will miss the services of Sean Williams, Craig Ervine and former captains Brendan Taylor and Cremer.
All-rounder Sikandar Raza, who is currently in Canada for the Global T20 tournament is also a notable absentee.
The teams will play each other twice during the week, culminating in next Sunday’s final.
Interim convenor of selectors Walter Chawaguta was also positive about Zimbabwe’s chances of pulling off an upset despite missing some key players.
“Obviously, we have the short-term goal of doing well in this series and just like the coach said, it’s T20, so anything can happen.
“You get off to a good start, pick up a couple of wickets in the power-plays and you suddenly find yourself on the top of the game, who knows what happens?” said Chawaguta.
Pakistan arrived in the country on Thursday. Australia’s loss in the one-off T20 match against England saw them slipping one place from the rankings into third position, but they still have a chance of recovering if they do well in the upcoming series.
Langer’s new-look side play their first game against Pakistan on Monday.
Zimbabwe T20I squad: Cephas Zhuwao, Chamu Chibhabha, Brian Chari, Tarisai Musakanda, Malcom Waller, PJ Moor,Tendai Chisoro, Kyle Jarvis, Brandon Mavuta, Blessing Muzarabani, Christopher Mpofu, Ryan Burl, Solomon Mire, Ryan Murray, Wellington Masakadza, Hamilton Masakadza, Elton Chigumbura.
Pakistan T20I squad: Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Hussain Talat, Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Haris Sohail, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Usman Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Sahibzada Farhan.
Australia T20 squad: Aaron Finch (c), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Travis Head, Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Andrew Tye, Jack Wildermuth.