Melbourne- Zimbabwe are back at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. Having missed last year’s event in the UAE and Oman, they will return to the big stage for the first time since 2016.
Powered by in-form all-rounder Sikandar Raza, Dave Houghton’s side will hope to make a big impression in their fifth ICC Men’s T20 World Cup campaign.
Zimbabwe used home advantage to full effect to seal their spot in Australia. The Chevrons dominated the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Global Qualifier B in Bulawayo, winning five games on the bounce with a series of commanding performances.
They were consistently able to access first-innings totals towards 200 and when the batters faltered, the bowling unit stepped up. That was keenly felt in the final when Zimbabwe were bowled out for 132 but then proceeded to skittle the Dutch for 95 to take overall victory in the Qualifier.
Earlier this year they showed promising signs in a 3-0 T20I series defeat to Afghanistan and would have been disappointed to be edged 3-2 in the series against African rivals Namibia.
Houghton is bullish on his side’s prospects of navigating the First Round, where they face a tricky draw in the shape of two-time winners West Indies, Ireland and Scotland.
T20 World Cup history
Zimbabwe’s first act at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in 2007 saw them pull off one of the most famous upsets in the event’s history.
Prosper Utseya’s side turned over a star-studded Australia, crowned ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup champions in 2003, by five wickets in an incredible match at Newlands.
Elton Chigumbura did the damage with the ball, accounting for both Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden, before Brendan Taylor’s unbeaten 60 saw them to victory.
Zimbabwe won two games for the first time in India in 2016, seeing off Hong Kong and Scotland, albeit defeat to Afghanistan put paid to their Super 12 chances.
Raza is one of the form players in white-ball international cricket this year, named Player of the Tournament in the Qualifier.
Playing in the middle order, the 36-year-old’s strike rate in the shortest form of the game has risen from 106.93 to 152.21 in a matter of months.
His fine form in the ODI format saw him lead Zimbabwe to a home series win over Pakistan in August, their first 50-over series win over a major nation in five years.
Raza will look for skipper Craig Ervine, returning from a hamstring injury, to lay a platform in the powerplay and then dominate the opposing attack in the middle overs.
A number of Zimbabwe’s frontline bowlers have shaken off injuries to make the 15-strong squad for Australia.
Tendai Chatara (collarbone), Wellington Masakadza (shoulder tendon) and Blessing Muzarabani (thigh) are all back in the fold in the nick of time.
Whether they are coming in undercooked remains to be seen, but the seam battery may need some help from spin-bowling all-rounder Ryan Burl and Raza’s handy off-spin.
With Group B games all taking place at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval, Zimbabwe begin against Ireland on 17 October.
They face West Indies on 19 October before their First Round ends against Scotland on 21 October