By Robson Sharuko
Just over a year ago, they silenced a nation, broke millions of hearts and crushed our country’s World Cup dreams with a sensational three-run victory which, inevitably, triggered a chain of ugly events in domestic cricket.
The scars from that disaster still remain visible to this day.
The United Arab Emirates cricketers refused to be bullied by the biggest crowd to watch this game in this country, on March 22 last year, and opened a window of hope for Afghanistan to book their ticket at the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup.
The global showcase, set for England from June this year, will be the first Cricket World Cup Zimbabwe will miss since Duncan Fletcher, and his vintage collection of troops, announced our arrival on the big stage in England by beating Australia by 13 runs at Trent Bridge in Nottingham in one of the tournament’s biggest shocks.
Zimbabwe had qualified for that World Cup by winning the 16-team ICC Trophy, also held in England, the previous year.
When the Chevrons were again asked to play a qualifier, to reach this year’s World Cup after the tournament was reduced to a 10-team event, they topped their group last year and when they thrashed Ireland, with their best all-round show in the Super Six, all they needed was just one more win in their last two matches.
The West Indies chased a competitive score, to ensure the Chevrons failed the first test, but a challenge to just beat the UAE and book their flight to England still appeared an appealing prospect, so seductive more than 15 000 fans poured into Harare Sports Club for the final showdown.
Thousands of other fans were also turned away as authorities locked the gates, concerned the massive crowd could trigger a stampede at the ground, as cricket finally confirmed its place as the country’s second biggest sporting discipline.
However, that’s just as good as it got for Zimbabwe that day.
A poor decision to chance fate by choosing to bowl, after winning the toss, when the weather forecast clearly predicted a midday downpour, was the start of a forgettable day for the Chevrons which ended with them coming just three runs short as their World Cup dreams melted.
Coach Heath Streak and his coaching staff were forced out, a number of boardroom battles erupted, some cases spilled into court and the country asked many questions and received very few answers.
This newspaper described it as the ‘’death of domestic cricket’’, and wondered how the Chevrons could lose to a ‘’rag tag team of amateur.’’
UAE coach Dougie Brown took to Twitter to express his frustration over The Herald’s reference of his team as a collection of amateurs.
‘’Thanks @HeraldZimbabwe . . . I quote . . . ‘rag tag team of amateurs’ @EmiratesCricket, Nice use of language to describe us . . . Sorry you didn’t qualify for the WC (World Cup) but, at least, give us some credit for how we played!’’
Yesterday, Brown, who now has former Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer as part of his backroom staff, watched as his team were dismissed for just 110 in 44.5 overs with Mohammad Boota’s 36, about a third of his team’s total, the only resistance while Shaiman Anwar added 11.
Tendai Chatara was the star with the ball with 3/25 in a man-of-the-match show while his fellow paceman Kyle Jarvis took 2/11 and Donald Tiripano took 2/18.
In response, the Chevrons, under the leadership of PJ Moor with regular captain Hamilton Masakadza injured, charged to victory in 23.1 overs, reaching their target for the loss of just three wickets, with Craig Ervine the mainstay of their batting with 51.
Regis Chakabva, who matched a Zimbabwe wicket-keeping record during the match, added 38.
Ervine was the last man standing, back in March last year, when his team, and country, needed him to hit a six, off the last ball, to win the match and a ticket to the World Cup.
The pressure was relentless that day and he couldn’t get them over the line.
“I think our bowlers were fantastic upfront. It was good for us to win and my job was made very easy today,’’ said Moor. ‘’Obviously, there is not going to be a day that goes so according to plan (like what happened today) but I am also relishing the challenge of having that chance to captain the side.’’
The next ODI is at Harare Sports Club tomorrow. The Herald