ZIMBABWE became only the fifth country to get points on the board, in the World Cup Super League which helps qualification for the 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup, after the Chevrons’ stunning win over Pakistan in Rawalpindi on Tuesday.
Having lost the series 0-2, after going down in the first two matches, the Chevrons had their pride, and World Cup points, still to fight for in the third match.
And, amid relentless drama, which saw the fate of the match swing from one side to the other, it was the visitors who eventually triumphed, in the Super Over, thanks to the heroics of the outstanding Blessing Muzarabani.
The 24-year-old, playing in his first series since resuming his international career, was the star of the show with the ball, taking five wickets during the Pakistan response, before two cheap wickets, in the eliminator, settled the contest.
Zimbabwe’s win gave the Chevrons 10 points and, although it’s still early days as many of the countries are yet to play any matches, it was a huge boost for the team.
Not many pundits expected the Chevrons, who had been inactive for a long time, to take something out of the den of the former World Champions who showed, during their tour of England, that they remain one of the powerhouses of the game on the globe.
England lead the table with 30 points after playing six matches, winning half of those games and losing as many matches, in this campaign.
Pakistan are in second place, with two wins from their three matches against Zimbabwe, which has given them 20 points while the Aussies are in third place with the same number of points.
Zimbabwe are in fourth place, with 10 points, the same number of points which Ireland have from their three games but the Chevrons have a better net run rate.
Powerhouse India lead the pack of nations who are yet to get their qualifying campaign underway.
New Zealand, one of the most consistent performers when it comes to the World Cup, are also yet to get their campaign underway and it’s the same story for South Africa, Sri Lanka, the Windies, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
The Netherlands are also waiting to get their adventure underway.
The World Cup Super League means every game is important, eliminating what used to be taken as dead rubbers in the past, given that there will always be some points on the line.
The top teams, at the end of the campaign, will qualify directly for the World Cup while others will have to fight in a further qualifier.
“There are 24 matches in the WSL, so it hurts to drop ten points here,” Pakistan captain, Babar Azam, told Cricinfo. “We’ll look at this series when the next one comes, and give 100% because every match you lose means you lose ten points.”
And, after their sensational win on Tuesday, there is a feeling, within the Zimbabwean camp, that they can compete against the traditional powers of the game in this qualifying campaign.
The Chevrons have struggled for consistency and a home defeat to the United Arab Emirates, before the biggest crowd to watch a cricket match in history at Harare Sports Club, with a World Cup ticket on offer, was one of their lowest points.
Sean Williams, who scored a century to help them from what appeared to be a hole, in the match on Tuesday, said they now wanted to also celebrate the joy that comes with victories.
“I think we can absolutely beat the bigger teams. We’re tired of competing and getting beaten,” Williams told Cricinfo. “That’s no longer acceptable.
“It’s been way too long and the whole mental approach towards our game has completely changed.
“Some of the young players in the changing room, like Wesley Madhevere, are remarkably good players. This experience allows those younger guys to play and beat the bigger teams.
“Blessing has got a long career ahead of him, so there’s a lot more to come from us.”
He could even afford to fee for Tendai Chisoro’s final-ball misfield that led to the Super Over in the first place.
“In a pressure situation, a lot of people panic under pressure. I’m just happy it ended up going our way. I felt we deserved to win that game. It’s important that our guys go to that player and pick him up.
“We’re not one to leave men behind. He’s going to be a senior player soon and it’s important for us to stick together. It’s water under the bridge and we move on to the T20s.”
This was the 38th tied match in ODI cricket since Australia and the West Indies battled their way to the first tie at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1984.
The Aussies’ score of 222/9 that day was matched by the Windies 22/5 in response.
This was also the third tied match in Pakistan, and 10th involving the Asian giants, while this was the eighth time that the Chevrons have been involved in a tied match.
Zimbabwe’s first tied match came in 1993 when they ended on the same score with India, who had posted 248/5, with the Chevrons responding with 248 all out.
Two years later, the Chevrons were again involved in a tied match when Zimbabwe posted 219/9, against Pakistan, at Harare Sports Club. The visitors responded with 219 all out. In the same year, there was another tie, against India, at Boland Park before the Chevrons tied their World Cup match against Ireland at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica in 2007.
Four years ago, the Chevrons again tied another match, against the Windies, at Queens and, in the World Cup Qualifier at the same venue, their match against Scotland ended in a tie. Williams and Taylor featured in that match against Ireland in Jamaica while they were also part of the Zimbabwe team who tied their game against Scotland at Queens Sports Club.