Sean Williams overcame a flu that kept him out of the field for the entiretyof the New Zealand innings to score a memorable century and Graeme Cremer took several blows on his body to put up a dogged display of batting on the 4th day at Bulawayo but neither of these efforts – humongous in terms of character but benign with respect to the context of the game – could come any close to alter the inevitable result. A foreseen defeat was slightly delayed and a Sunday afternoon prolonged for a while.
Zimbabwe, playing Test cricket after a gap of 20 months, lingered long and hard to the 4th day at Bulawayo, never once troubling the opponent during the course of the Test match. The Kiwis were utterly professional in what they did and that was just enough to see off Zimbabwe.
That brings us to the question – how much does one gain and how much does one lose form these type of Test series?
A few Kiwi batsmen bolstered their batting average while a few tested their patience and concentration prowess, a few bowlers ran in and put in the hard yards on a pretty flat surface. So the Kiwis don’t stand to gain much apart from the fact that it serves them a little in terms of match practice sans quality though.
But this series is more about Zimbabwe and less about the Kiwis. It’s not about rankings or any rivalry. It is about Zimbabwe and its cricket – on and off the field. So what does Zimbabwe eventually gain?
By playing a Test match with an opposition way ahead of it in rankings, Zimbabwe stands to gain very little for the mere quality that the opponent possesses neither allows it to enrich its experience, nor gives the time and space required to furnish its game. Even a tiny error will be severely punished and even a gigantic effort will be nullified without much fuss as it happened at Bulawayo.
On the 1st morning, Zimbabwe was reduced for 36/4, but none of those wickets resulted from genuinely wicket taking deliveries. The batters tried their best to blunt out the Kiwi pace bowlers but eventually gave in. Each batsman had played enough shares of his deliveries to play himself in but couldn’t resist the temptation to score runs as they were hard to come by.
If ever there was a contest, it was lost then and there, in the first 18 overs of a five-day Test match, for Zimbabwe merely doesn’t possess enough quality in its ranks to stage a comeback after having fallen behind the game. If anything, it is going to bring down whatever little confidence they had going into the game.
The top order which dug out in the 1st innings at least for some time found itself wanting in the 2nd innings as Boult and Southee found a little movement. Chinouya and Tiripano bent their back for very little success, their lack of pace only hurt them as the game progressed while the Kiwi batsmen displayed tremendous concentration. Sore shoulders and stiff backs is all they are left with now!
There is not much of soul searching to do for Zimbabwe after the heavy loss for; most of the players gave it their best.
The 85 run 9th wicket partnership between Tiripano and Masvaure, the 53 selfless overs sent down by Cremer, the Sean Williams century which upheld the spirit and pride, and the blows that skipper Cremer didn’t mind taking onto his body as he stood by Williams, goes on to show the character of this side and the heart it possesses.
But sadly this isn’t the arena to showcase guts and character. Against equal opponents Zimbabwe needs to be pitted against. A Test series against the likes of Afghanistan, Ireland or even Bangladesh for that matter will aid Zimbabwe to furnish their skills and test their quality. This is where a second tier Test system will help the lesser nations like Zimbabwe to force a comeback.
Out of nowhere if one is asked to bat against the pace and swing of Southee and Boult what else could be foreseen? If the punching gloves of the boxer are in itself bigger than the size of the opponent, what contest one can look forward to?
There is much to lose and little to gain.