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No great expectations

Zimbabwe’s batting hopes will rest largely on Brendan Taylor (left) and Hamilton Masakadza.

Just a few years ago the state of cricket and its organisation were so chaotic in Zimbabwe that cricketing and government administrators agreed to put a hold on their playing of Test cricket and confined the country to the shortened formats of the international game.

They are now back in the fold in all forms of international cricket and could be a danger to stronger teams if only for the fact that they do not have the pressure of high expectations resting on their shoulders and can play with a certain degree of relaxed aggression. But winning games in this tournament will be a tall task for them.Not surprisingly, as shown by their results over the years, there are no stars in the Zimbabwe line-up, there are no Andy Flowers or Heath Streaks, and to add to their woes, if not to his, they have lost Tatenda Taibu to God.

But, there is talent in the side and a few capable of embarrassing some of the “big” teams at the tournament with individual performances.

Hamilton Masakadza announced himself on the world stage with a Test debut century as a teenager, and though studies, loss of form and lack of motivation might have robbed the world of seeing the best of him, this tournament could be what the articulate young man needs. Captain Brendan Taylor is the rock on which the Zimbabwean innings is normally built, and together with Visu Sibanda and Elton Chigumbura, is expected to put reasonable scores on the board.

Zimbabwe have not played any international cricket since their tour of New Zealand in February, but Taylor said practice matches among the Zimbabwe squad and an unofficial tri-series against South Africa and Bangladesh had been adequate preparation.”I don’t think a lack of matches will hinder us,” Taylor said. “We have enough players back home to choose from and have played some competitive matches amongst us. Our training camp was really good. We had good success against South Africa and Bangladesh in an unofficial tri-series in Harare two months ago. So no excuses, we’re all in good form. Obviously a bigger stage now, and it’s time to come out and perform.”

Zimbabwe defeated a South Africa XI that included Richard Levi, Hashim Amla and Lonwabo Tsotsobe among others, to win the tri-series in Harare in June. They won four out of five matches in the tournament, defeating both other teams twice. However, they lost both their World Twenty20 warm up matches, going down to Ireland by 54 runs and to Bangladesh by five wickets.

Zimbabwe have won only three of the 20 Twenty20 matches they have played, against Canada, West Indies and Australia.

Their best batsman in this format has been Masakadza with 559 runs in 20 matches at a strike rate of 120.99, while their leading bowler has been Prosper Utseya with 16 wickets in 18 matches at an economy rate of 6.78.

Zimbabwe opened their tournament this afternoon against Sri Lanka with an embarrassingly heavy defeat.

Tournament predictions – a fairly quick return to Harare.

Squad: Brendan Taylor (cpt), Hamilton Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda, Chris Mpofu, Kyle Jarvis, Ray Price, Elton Chigumbura, Forster Mutizwa, Craig Ervine, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Brian Vitori, Grame Cremer, Prosper Utseya, Richard Muzhange, Malcolm Waller (WG)

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