Zimbabwe give Houghton perfect birthday gift with Windies victory

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Harare – Zimbabwe cricket team coach Dave Houghton got the perfect belated birthday present as his side took a decisive step towards qualifying for the ICC World Cup to be held in India later this year with an impressive 35-run victory against West Indies in their Group A qualifier at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.

Cheered on by boisterous home crowd, the Chevrons bounced back from being 268 in 49.5 overs to bowl out the Wind Indies for 233 to secure a famous home win, their third on the trot during the on-going qualifiers after earlier wins against Nepal and Netherlands.

The result confirmed the Chevrons’ place in the Super Six of the 10-team ICC World Cup Qualifier, where the top two teams will qualify for the World Cup in India in October and November.

For Zimbabwe coach Houghton the win was a perfect belated birthday present as it came a day after the former national team captain celebrated his 66th birthday.

“I said to the guys yesterday I’d like a birthday present, and that would be the win today. I got what I asked for. It doesn’t happen very often,” Houghton said during the post-match Press conference.

The former Zimbabwe captain revealed how he used the team’s failure to qualify for the 2019 World Cup to motivate his players ahead of the game against West Indies.

Five years ago, Zimbabwe was just one match away from qualifying for the World Cup before slumping to a disappointing loss to the United Arab Emirates.

“I said to the guys we had a clear path in 2018,” Houghton said. “We only had to win the last game and we could have been at the World Cup and they messed it up. We’ve still got to do the job.”

Houghton, who has enjoyed remarkable success with the Zimbabwe team since taking over as head coach last year has been praised by his players and observers for reviving Zimbabwe’s fortunes.

The veteran coach however refuses to take the credit, instead attributes the success to self-belief by his players, who were terribly short of confidence when he took over from Indian mentor Lalchand Rajput.

“It’s hard for me to sit here and take credit for the way our guys are playing,” said Houghton, who led Zimbabwe during their inaugural Test match in 1992.

Dave Houghton acknowledged the positive influence of the capacity crowd which cheered the Zimbabwe team on during their win against West Indies on Saturday.

“I think I’ve given the guys a little bit more belief in their own ability. There is so much more quality, depth and skill in this team than there was in the days when I played. All we needed to do was get it out of them.”

“For that to happen they had to start enjoying what they were doing at practice; have really quality practices and have fun. And have some enjoyment off the field. I’ve tried to show the guys a fair amount about life: go to game parks, go do some fishing, go see some lions, go see some elephants. It’s not all about the humdrum and day in and day out cricket. I’ve managed to bring relaxation to the guys. That allows them to bring out the skill that they have,” he said.

Houghton also paid tribute to the fans for their support after another sell-out crowd at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.

“It’s fantastic; we love our fans,” Houghton said.

“We know the noise that they make and the aura they bring to us playing at home. I’m glad I’m not one of the opposition. They talk about a 12th man in football. For us, they’re our 13th, 14th and 15th men.”

Zimbabwe faces the United States in their final Group A match at Harare Sports Club on Sunday, while West Indies will meet Netherlands across town at Takashinga Cricket Club.

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