Everybody likes an underdog. The David vs Goliath battle inherits a unique charm about it, and with all the long years of turmoil and suffering that Zimbabwean cricket has been going through, it seems the corner has been finally turned. New heroes are emerging, and none more so than Brendan Taylor, who at still only 25 years of age has a long and prosperous haul ahead of him. Sample this for a Bradman-esque series:
- Two T20s - 50* & 1 (the only failure)
- Three ODIs - 128*, 107* & 75
- Only Test Match - 50 & 117
Yes it was against New Zealand, a truly toothless bowling unit. However he is fast becoming a talisman for Zimbabwe, the next generation Heath Streak, and good luck to him as well.
However the key point of this post is not a tribute to Taylor, it is a tribute to the Zimbabwean attitude on the fifth day. On day five the target was 366 runs, sitting at 61/2 overnight. The conservative or dare I say sensible approach would have been to enter Dravid mode and bat out the day seeking an honorable draw. We saw some insipid behavior from the (at the time) world champions India in the West Indies this year, when they refused to pursue a simple run chase in the name of 'safety'. That match flopped and died.
But on this day, there was none of that fluff, the heart of Test cricket was re-invigorated, injected with an air of enthusiasm and unabashed optimism. Zimbabwe went for it, and in fact wrestled the upper hand at one stage. New Zealand were nervous as Taylor went about carving the attack, letting everyone know that they will not lie down, and that the only possible results were a famous victory or a heroic loss. With the able help of Tatenda Taibu, they were within 100 runs of touching distance.
|Looks like we'll have to skip that early shower. © AFP|
New Zealand had to squeeze every ounce of bowling ability they had to stop them. The result was a loss by a nerve racking 34 runs on paper, and a series lost 1:0. But the true result was much more than that. It was a sign that some teams are willing to play for the win and give us spectators what we deserve. It was a revival of the cricket format that faces intense scrutiny for being the dullest form of all.
It was proof that the number ten cricketing nation is finally making a comeback.