By Lewin Zoe
It was on a beautiful overcast Thursday morning when Zimbabwe won the toss and elected to field against minors United Arab Emirates at the Harare Sports Club.
Anything called a ‘win’ would take our beloved nation to the most venerated cricketing event, the ICC World Cup in England next year.
From the Castle corner, a place for the so-called hardcore fans of the game, to the centurion, where merrymakers and beer lovers conglomerate during a game, and from the grandstands to the embankment where lovers occupy the green grass, cricket devotees swamped in Harare Sports Club, to support the boys as our family members did in Bulawayo at the Queens Club.
The Harare Sports Club is a fortress that has given us eternal reminiscences of sweet triumphs that include the 24 run test win over Pakistan in 2013, our 2 run win over India in a T20 match in 2016 and most illustrious victory over Australia in a tri-series that involved South Africa following Prosper Utseya’s magic with the ball.
A dark raincloud sat on top of our beautiful ground but that could not dissuade fans from singing and dancing in support of their boys. The rains came, the weather changed but the music and euphoria became noisier.
Covers were brought on, players walked back to the pavilion which resulted in an early end to UAE’s innings leaving Zimbabwe to chase 230 runs in 40 overs.
Once again questions were raised about the credibility of the D/L method after UAE had finished on 235/7 after 47.5 overs.
Our top order went sooner than everyone thought, leaving us agonizing with PJ Moor trying to hold our innings together. Sikandar Raza and Sean Williams gave us some hope before they holed out.
The whole ground and everyone watching were on their feet as a six was needed off the last delivery
The whole atmosphere changed and everyone was caught in betwixt, Craig had to play a mar or break shot, the lives of all Zimbabwean cricketers were in his bat. How we hoped he could emulate what Denish Karthik did the previous week in Sri Lanka, hitting a six off the last ball to hand India a T20 tri-series cup victory over Bangladesh.
A miracle was needed but gloomily Craig Ervine couldn’t deliver. We used to have tears of Joy, but this time some of our players wept so bitterly the same way Bangladeshi’s players cried in the dressing room after the Multan test against Pakistan in 2003.
Hearts were fragmented and the only way to supporters bared their ire was to remain silent. The defeat was indescribable and the manner in which UAE’s players celebrated dawned on us that our world cup hopes had been wrinkled.
Brendon Taylor was the leading run scorer in the tournament, Raza was the player of the tournament – these performances to mention a few were ample to take us home but our brothers from Afghanistan who came to the super 6 without a point emerged as the tournament winners. Indeed all things are possible.
It’s a hard pill to swallow yeah for the first time since 1983 Zimbabwe will miss the ICC World Cup. We assumed the home conditions and the support from local fans will be sufficient to make it, little did we know that UAE had planned to spoils the party in favour of their friends Afghanistan.
The question is where do we go from here? Missing the world cup implies forfeiture of revenue to Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) and jeopardized source of living for our players. Recently someone described this setback as ‘the death of Zimbabwe Cricket’, somewhat.
it’s true! It’s time to go back to the drawing board and hope we put a competitive performance in our busy home schedule which will see the mighty Australians visiting us in July, Pakistan also gracing our nation in August and finally our boys going South Africa for a tour which includes all three formats of the game.