Zimbabwe’s batsmen were undone by conditions conducive to swing bowling and some shoddy strokes © Associated Press
Zimbabwe coach Heath Streak lost his gruntle. While Zimbabwe was able to take heart from the way they resisted defeat during the Test series, Streak opened the press conference after his side’s eight-wicket thrashing in the tri-series opener by admitting: “I won’t have too many positives today.”
Streak seemed particularly vexed by the white flag Zimbabwe raised through their body language. “Your positivity and your mental outlook is affected by your body language and how you’re thinking,” Streak said. “Yes, you may not feel you’ve got enough runs on the board but it doesn’t stop you going out there and being positive and aggressive and supporting your team-mates. Diving around and getting energy going. You don’t need talent to do that. Those are things that anyone can do.
“It’s something we talk about a lot, the scoreboard not impacting on your actions and your outlook on what you’re trying to achieve out there. But often it does and for people outside – media, supporters – they see that probably more than the players do inside. It’s certainly something that I’m putting a high priority on addressing.”
Though Zimbabwe’s 154 was woefully under par, the tri-series opener really seemed to turn on the first ball of Zimbabwe’s bowling effort. Tinashe Panyangara, returning to the side after overcoming a back injury that kept him out of the squad since June, produced a delivery that curled away to take Dhananjaya de Silva‘s outside edge. Almost immediately, however, Umpire Tiffin called a no-ball, and just as quickly Zimbabwe’s vim disappeared. The free-hit was clumped to midwicket, and the floodgates opened. Despite helpful conditions, the bowlers could make nothing more of the game.
De Silva, Man of the Match for his unbeaten 78, admitted his dismissal at that stage could “very much” have made a difference to the result. “The ball was seaming around and if I had got out at that time, maybe three or more wickets would have fallen,” de Silva said.
‘Some guys just threw their wickets away. They could have achieved 200 or 220 and that would have given them a good chance’ – Dhananjaya de Silva © Associated Press
De Silva, who struck a fifty and a ton in the Tests, suggested Sri Lanka too was surprised by the depths of Zimbabwe’s batting woes. “Some guys just threw their wickets away. They could have achieved 200 or 220 and that would have given them a good chance to come back into the game.”
No need to tell Streak that. “Certainly we had the tougher side of the batting, but when you look back, bar Chari no one really got a ball that they can say was an unplayable delivery,” Streak said. “Yes, conditions were in their favour, but there were not enough people coming in and saying they got out to a good ball.
Despite batting on a green pitch and under gloomy skies in the morning that aided swing, Streak refused to blame the conditions – or the toss – for his team’s collapse. “Having had late rain yesterday, the covers came off late, and we had a bit of drizzle [this morning]. Losing the toss wasn’t great, but it also wasn’t any excuse for how we performed.
“The toss has always been in the game of cricket and that’s not something you can guarantee. If you can only win cricket matches when you win the toss then there’s a serious issue to address. For me, today there was an advantage to the toss that would have made it 60-40 in favour of whoever wins the toss, but there are still no excuses for a batting performance like that. PJ Moor and some of the lower order guys like Cremer and Tiripano showed that when you applied yourself there were runs to be scored.”
Still, Zimbabwe has three more games to play, and those will be in Bulawayo – Streak’s hometown and conditions he is familiar with. “I said to the guys the only positive for me is that we’ve got three more games,” Streak said.
“There weren’t really many other positives. The reality is that we have to bat, bowl and field better than we did today otherwise we’re not going to feature in this series. It’s certainly within their own hands. There’s also lots of work for me and the coaching staff to do, but we talk about people taking responsibility and when you say that generally you’re looking at your senior players to do that. They’re going to have to start putting their hands up.”
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo