Zimbabwe’s need for Test cricket in such times

It is not a surprise that Zimbabwe, which barely competes against the best now, lost the first Test to Pakistan in Harare.

Cricket officials inspect the pitch during the second Test match between Zimbabwe and Pakistan at the Harare Sports Club. Among the top teams during the Flower brothers’ era, the nation barely competes against the best now and hopes to play more Test cricket.   -  AP

When it comes to cricket and Zimbabwe, the immediate concern is the lack of champion players in the country. The absence of a brand, a colossal figure to wade through the rough waters. In the era of the Flower brothers, this African side was a different beast before poverty blunt its horns. There was, of course, racial discrimination in the country and the government’s attempt to control the Zimbabwe Cricket Union.

It is not a surprise that Zimbabwe, which barely competes against the best now, lost the first Test to Pakistan in Harare. The volume of cricketers rising up through the junior cricket ranks is low due to poverty — a major problem in the country with a young population. Most of the children in the rural areas sleep hungry.

Emotions ran wild when fast bowler Donald Tiripano invited Babar Azam to drive on a fuller delivery with a man at short mid-on. The Pakistan star is No. 1 in the ODI rankings and No. 9 in Tests, but the bowler proved that even stalwarts make mistakes. He went for the shot and hit it straight to Roy Kaia — perhaps creating the moment of the Test match.

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Zimbabwe batted twice for 176 and 134, falling short of Pakistan’s mammoth 426. Fawad Alam struck 140 while Hasan Ali’s reverse swing earned him nine wickets (4/53 and 5/36) as Pakistan won by an innings and 116 runs.

A quiet goodbye

Sri Lanka bowling all-rounder Thisara Perera announced retirement from international cricket this fortnight.

Besides sending down lethal leg-cutters, the World T20 winner of 2014 was popular for his clean hitting in the death overs. In fact, he retired with the fourth-best strike rate (112.08) in ODIs among batsmen with at least 2,000 runs.

Perera did not play Test cricket after 2012 but was a vital figure in the white-ball setup. The right-arm medium pacer claimed 175 ODI wickets in 166 outings. And with the bat, he smashed 2,338 runs including 10 fifties and a hundred.

Thisara Perera’s moment of glory came when Sri Lanka beat India to lift the T20 World Cup in 2014.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

 

He was part of the World Cup team that ended runner-up in 2011. Perera had smashed an unbeaten 22 off nine balls and dismissed Gautam Gambhir in the final against India in Mumbai.

But his moment of glory came three years later when Sri Lanka beat India to lift the T20 World Cup. He was unbeaten on 23 off 14 balls to finish the game. Overall, he featured in 84 T20Is for the islanders, returning 51 wickets and 1,204 runs.

Perera was not in the radar for ODI selection against Bangladesh, and the selectors were vocal about their strategy to scout young players to create a pool for the World Cup in 2023 which prompted him to take the decision.

He will continue to play franchise cricket.

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“I take pride in the fact that I was able to represent Sri Lanka in seven cricket World Cups and be a contributing member of the 2014 T20 World Cup win against India in Bangladesh. Easily the highlight of my life,” Perera wrote in his letter to the Sri Lanka Cricket board.

Jayawickrama — the new Lankan hero

Sri Lanka has been heavily reliant on spin from its early days. The quest to find replacements for legends Muttiah Muralitharan and Rangana Herath seems to be nearing the end. After a draw in the first Test, Dimuth Karunaratne’s men demolished Bangladesh by 209 runs in the decider in Pallekele with left-arm spin bowler Praveen Jayawickrama claiming a match-haul of 11/178 on debut.

Jayawickrama burst into the ICC Test bowling rankings, at No. 48, with his heroics. “He does the simple things well. He pitches the ball in the right spot. That’s something we saw from Herath. He makes the batsman play, and gives the ball a chance to do something. When you play at this level, you have to have that consistency in line and length. That was his secret,” Karunaratne, who finished the series with 428 runs in three innings, said.

Sri Lanka's Praveen Jayawickrama celebrates the dismissal of Bangladesh's Mehidy Hasan. The left-arm spinner claimed a match-haul of 11/178.   -  AP

 

Karunaratne moved up in the batting rankings, from No. 15 to No. 11, for scores of 244, 118 and 66.

Off-break bowler Ramesh Mendis, who was playing his second Test, supported Jayawickrama from the other end. He picked up a match-haul of six wickets.

For Bangladesh, only senior batsman Tamim Iqbal had sparks, but he fell in the nervous 90s twice in four innings. Skipper Mominul Haque had scored a laborious 127 in the first Test and remained quiet since.