Eddie Chikamhi and Ellina Mhlanga
ZIMBABWE’S Test win over Bangladesh has won the admiration of the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Kirsty Coventry who hailed the team for showing a strong spirit under difficult circumstances.
The Chevrons on Tuesday surprised everyone including themselves when they wrapped up the first Test against the Tigers with a day and half to spare in what was to be their first win in 17 years in the longer version of the game away from home.
Zimbabwe usually do not get opportunities to play Test matches and as a result not many have given them the chance in this version of the game.
But they had the whole world marvelling after posting a 151-run win over Bangladesh in Sylhet. Coventry yesterday joined in singing praises for the team.
“I think I am extremely proud of them. They have been working hard, the players have been working hard, they have been hungry for success. After not qualifying for the World Cup, the players have been working extremely hard.
“I am joining the rest of the nation in being proud of them. I hope the success continues.
“I spoke to Brendan Taylor a while ago and the team is very excited and very proud. Hopefully they are going to feed-off the energy for the remainder of the year,” said Coventry.
Zimbabwe have been going through a difficult year which begun by the failure to qualify for next year’s World Cup in a tournament they hosted.
The debacle, which resulted in the sacking of the national team coaches and selectors and triggered a feeling of uncertainty among players, also opened the doors for several problems between the players and the leadership leading to boycotts.
This was followed by a winless run in the high profile Triangular series that featured Pakistan and Australia in June/July and the subsequent ODI series against Pakistan.
Zimbabwe also failed dismally in their tour of South Africa where they suffered an ODI white wash and a 2-0 T20I defeat. The winless run continued in Bangladesh where they were also suffered a three-match ODI whitewash.
But the 151-run win on Tuesday was their first Test win in five years since they beat Pakistan in Harare in 2015. And this could be the tonic they needed to spring back to their feet.
“I think every athlete, teams and individuals all have to go through some challenging times, ups and downs, but the team has really chosen to keep pushing forward and now the hard work has paid off.
“After seeing some of the photos and reactions (from Bangladesh) they are clearly excited. I would like to hope that there is a lot that Zimbabwe Cricket need to do, but the team and the athletes remained focused and the work is paying off,” said Coventry.
The Zimbabwe Cricket leadership also congratulated the team for their efforts. ZC acting managing director Givemore Makoni said the players showed a strong mental resolve despite playing in one of the most difficult destinations to win games.
Makoni also wished the team well as they prepare for the second Test scheduled to begin on Sunday in Dhaka.
“It was a terrific team effort and we followed all the action with immense pride and excitement as you recorded Zimbabwe’s first Test victory in five years and the first one abroad since November 2001.
“You are a talented group and you have shown the mental strength and fortitude to succeed at the highest level and we can only urge you to work harder and stay focused.
“As you prepare to face Bangladesh in the second Test match in Dhaka, we are confident that you will put in another inspiring performance to wrap up the series.
“Good luck and may you continue giving us all such wonderfully exciting and inspiring performances while you fly the Zimbabwe flag high!” he said.
Zimbabwe captain Hamilton Masakadza, who led the team from the front with crucial knocks of 52 and 48, described the win as a “special and proud moment”.
This was his first win across all formats since he was appointed captain mid-year, replacing Graeme Cremer. The victory in Sylhet is also Zimbabwe’s 12th Test win overall and only the third abroad.
“I am absolutely thrilled as this is my first victory as captain and first Test victory away from home as well.
“This is a really proud and special moment for me, the team and our nation.
“I am really excited and really chuffed for the boys — they have worked hard and they deserve this one.
“I felt it had been a long time coming, thought we have been due, we have been getting ourselves into good positions ever since the South Africa tour, even in the one-day series here, but just not carrying on.
“But I felt the guys stuck to their task well this time round and really finished off the game which is what we have been failing to do. We got ourselves into a good position again, but we pulled through this time,” Masakadza said.
Sean Williams, who was named player of the match for his two good knocks of 88 and 20 on a tough surface, was ecstatic after helping the team to the historic victory.
“I am ecstatic to have won this Test match in Bangladesh, the first time winning away from home. It’s a great feeling giving us goosebumps all round.
“I would like to thank my team for a really hard-fought game, extremely tough game.
“And to all the fans for sticking with us, thank you for the support, thank you for the kind messages that we have been receiving throughout this tour and hopefully this continues,” said Williams.
Sikandar Raza, who took six wickets in the match, said the victory was incredible for a side that had not played Test cricket in almost a year.
“This victory speaks volumes of our character, courage that all the boys have showed out there. Some people may still be — and I am one of them — living in the nightmares of the (World Cup) qualifiers, but this will take the edge off them.
“The highest format is Test cricket and for all those people who have been supporting Zimbabwe through and through this is a reward that maybe we can give to them to move forward and thank them for their continued support.
“Personally, it just feels brilliant and it is humbling that we have won a Test match in Bangladesh. A lot of countries have not done that and for a Zimbabwe team that does not play too much Test cricket — we last played almost a year ago — to beat them by 151 runs it is just magical.”