Cricket: Zimbabwe take guard for Test career

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The Independent Online
ZIMBABWE will become the ninth Test-playing nation on Sunday when they take to the field in Harare for a five-day contest against India.

The game signals the turning of a full circle for the hosts - from international outcasts during the days of white minority rule and the culmination of a decade of B- grade apprenticeship.

It will also represent a second landmark in world cricket, when the English umpire Dickie Bird stands as the first sponsored Test umpire. The scheme could ultimately lead to the funding of neutral test umpires, a move frequently proposed but previously considered too costly to implement.

However, the main interest will be in how Zimbabwe perform against India, who yesterday kicked off their tour with a 16-run victory over the Zimbabwe President's XI in Harare. Despite initially struggling at 76 for 5 India recovered to post a score of 203 for 9, limiting the President's XI to 187 for 9 in their 50 overs.

'There is no way we expect to be world beaters,' Peter Chingoka, president of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, said.

He said it would be expecting too much from Zimbabwe to beat either India or New Zealand, who they meet in two home Tests next month.

During the early years of their isolation, Rhodesia - as they were - maintained their standards by playing in South Africa's Currie Cup. However, with the coming of independence in 1980, Zimbabwe cut all ties with South Africa and cricket at national level became a rarity with only occasional matches against other B grade countries.

Some international success did come their way, though, notably a defeat of Australia during the 1983 World Cup in England and it was their equally surprise win over England in this year's World Cup that clinched their case for Test status.

They had applied in each of the three previous years and finally, last July, they were admitted to the select group by the International Cricket Council.

Chingoka feels that achievement has a wider significance. 'Not only is it a landmark for cricket but for Zimbabwean sport overall,' he said.

Their elevation to the top level will also help Zimbabwe retain their most talented players, such as Graeme Hick, who is now an England player, and Peter Rawson, who has moved to South Africa.

The present team does have strength in its batting line-up with the captain, Dave Houghton, Andy Pycroft and the two Flower brothers, Andy and Grant but their bowling looks thin with only pace man Eddo Brandes and 45- year-old off-spinner John Traicos seeming likely match-winners.

TOUR MATCH (Harare): India beat Zimbabwe's President's XI by 16 runs. India 203 for 9 in 50 overs (R Shastri 73; G Crocker 3-18); President's XI 187 for 9 in 50 overs (G Briant 51).

(Photograph omitted)

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