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Zimbabwe's spotless record in the Qualifiers


Zimbabwe_cricket_ODIZimbabwe have returned to the World Cup Qualifier after 28 years, thanks to the modified structure that restricted the number of teams automatically qualifying for the World Cup to just eight. Since 1996, Zimbabwe have played the World Cup on account of being a full member; this time, however, they will be battling nine other sides at home to clinch one of the two spots on offer.

Known as Rhodesia until independence from the United Kingdom in 1980, Zimbabwe became an Associate member of the ICC in 1981. Before 1992, when they were given the status of a full member, Zimbabwe participated in three consecutive editions of the ICC Trophy, as the World Cup Qualifier was known then. Here is a look back at Zimbabwe's successful past at the World Cup Qualifier.

England, 1982

The second edition of the ICC Trophy was held in England (which also hosted the first edition in 1979) and in line with the English ODI standards of those days, it saw 60-over contests played with a red ball and in white clothing. The tournament consisted of 16 teams divided into two groups, with the winner qualifying for the 1983 World Cup as the eighth team.

Zimbabwe, led by Duncan Fletcher, was clubbed in Group A along with Canada, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Israel, Kenya, Papua New Guinea and the United States of America. They began with intent, thrashing the USA by 191 runs. A second-wicket stand of 212 between Dave Houghton (135) and Kevin Curran (126) took Zimbabwe to 332/4, which was way beyond the USA's reach.

Fellow Africans Kenya were the next team to be beaten, as a rain-reduced 25-over match ended in Zimbabwe's favour by 120 runs after they posted 172/4. The rain gods continued to play spoilsport, with Zimbabwe's next two fixtures, against Gibraltar and Canada, ending in washouts. In their next completed game, the ruthless Zimbabweans thrashed Israel by nine wickets after bowling them out for 65.

Papua New Guinea suffered a similar fate, getting bowled out for 94 to lose by nine wickets. Hong Kong fought better in the last round, batting out the overs to score 192/4, but Andy Pycroft's 83* ensured an easy seven-wicket win for Zimbabwe. Being the only unbeaten team in the group, Zimbabwe topped with 24 points, setting up a semifinal date with Bangladesh.

Curran took 4/31 with his fast medium pace to condemn Bangladesh to 124, and then scored 44 in a second-wicket stand of 103 with Jack Heron (63*) to seal an eight-wicket win for his team. The final at Leicester saw Zimbabwe needing 232 to beat Bermuda, and it was Pycroft (82) and Craig Hodgson (57*) who helped Zimbabwe fight back from 78/3 and win by five wickets in the 55th over.

Houghton (308 runs) and Curran (276) were Zimbabwe's best batsmen of the tournament, while pacer Peter Rawson (14 wickets) led the way with the ball. Not only did Zimbabwe qualify for the 1983 World Cup, they also upset Australia by 13 runs in their opening match at Trent Bridge, with Fletcher (69* and 4/42) producing a superb all-round display.

England, 1986

The host nation and the number of teams were the same as in 1982, but the weather was much more relenting - all the matches ended in a result - and the final of the tournament was played at Lord's. Zimbabwe's opponents in Group A - which was made up of seven teams as against nine in Group B - were Argentina, Bangladesh, Denmark, East Africa, Kenya and Malaysia.

Zimbabwe, under Houghton's captaincy, faced Bangladesh in their first match, and won convincingly. Pycroft belted 135 in a total of 315/6, to which Bangladesh could reply with only 171, thanks to a haul of 4/28 from left-arm seamer Malcolm Jarvis. Kenya caved meekly as well, subsiding to 28/5 against the pace and swing of Rawson and Jarvis, before folding for 82 en route to a seven-wicket defeat.

Two days later, Argentina might have harbored hopes of upsetting the Zimbabwean applecart when they had the defending champions in a spot of bother at 98/5. However, any such aspirations were dashed by Rawson, who creamed 125 from number seven and put on 174 for the sixth wicket with Gary Wallace (77). Chasing a gargantuan 358, Argentina were ultimately walloped by 207 runs.

Zimbabwe's next win, by eight wickets against Denmark, was highlighted by figures of 4/21 from 23-year-old fast bowler and future World Cup hero Eddo Brandes, which helped limit the Danes to 146. Brandes continued from where he left in the following game against Malaysia with a return of 4/13, combining with Rawson (4/21) to brush the opposition aside for a measly 89 and set up another eight-wicket win.

Brandes was equally impactful in the last group game against East Africa, grabbing 5/37 to induce a collapse from 121/3 to 140 and pave the way for Zimbabwe's ten-wicket win (Houghton scoring 87*). Zimbabwe were thus the only team across both groups to have a clean slate - 24 points from six games. They now faced Bermuda, their 1982 co-finalists, in the semifinal.

Bermuda proved no match for the overwhelmingly clinical Zimbabweans. Despite reaching 201/7, they were knocked out by ten wickets, courtesy of openers Grant Paterson (123) and Robin Brown (61). Zimbabwe successfully defended their title at Lord's, beating the Netherlands by 25 runs, who fell short in pursuit of a target of 244. Brown (60), Andy Waller (59) and medium pacer Iain Butchart were the key performers.

Paterson led the run charts for Zimbabwe, tallying 345 runs at 69.00, while their most prolific wicket-takers were Rawson (18 wickets at 11.55) and Brandes (16 at 13.37). Unlike 1983, Zimbabwe went winless at the 1987 World Cup, though they came agonizingly close to beating New Zealand at Hyderabad, going down by three runs in a chase of 243 despite Houghton's stunning knock of 142.

The Netherlands, 1990

The ICC Trophy moved out of England for the first time, and saw a change in the tournament format. Zimbabwe, again under Houghton, were in Group A with Canada, Malaysia and Singapore, and opened their account in customary fashion, bowling Malaysia out for 80 before coasting to a nine-wicket win. Egyptian-born former South African off-spinner John Traicos, who led Zimbabwe at the 1987 World Cup, returned miserly figures of 4/10.

Singapore endured an even bigger defeat – a ten-wicket drubbing after being bundled out for 108. Jarvis (4/21) and Brandes (3/30) had Singapore teetering at 35/5, and from thereon the result was a foregone conclusion. Canada showed promise, bowling Zimbabwe out for 215, but the target proved 68 runs too many. The 19-year-old Grant Flower showed glimpses of his batting potential with an anchoring 70.   

Another four-team group, featuring Kenya, Papua New Guinea and the USA, awaited Zimbabwe in the second round. Once again, Zimbabwe gave a strong signal that they had outgrown the Associate level. Papua New Guinea were beaten by nine wickets after managing only 133, the USA lost by seven wickets, having succumbed to the brilliant Brandes, whose 5/22 skittled them out for 131, and Kenya limped to 126/6 while chasing 260.  

Houghton led from the front in the semifinal against Bangladesh with a gritty 91, helping Zimbabwe recover from a precarious 37/4 to 231/7. Brandes showed that he was equipped with the bat too, scoring an unbeaten 66 from number eight. Pacemen Kevin Duers (4/25) and Jarvis (3/22) ripped through the Bangladeshi top order to leave the score at 45/5, a burst that was enough to secure an 84-run win.

The Netherlands squared up against Zimbabwe in the final at The Hague, looking to create an impression in front of their home crowd. Despite a solid start, the Dutchmen could only stretch themselves to 197/9, which was chased down by Zimbabwe without much hassle, for the loss of four wickets in the 55th over. Wicketkeeper Andy Flower, who would go on to become Zimbabwe’s batting mainstay a decade later, top-scored with 69*.

The Flower brothers both shined in the tournament – Andy was Zimbabwe’s highest run-getter with 311 at 77.75, while Grant was not too far behind, with 253 at 63.25. Brandes was the leading wicket-taker; his 18 wickets came at 12.77 apiece. Brandes, a chicken farmer, etched his name in World Cup folklore in 1992, when he was named the man of the match for his match-winning 4/21 against England at Albury.

Zimbabwe’s domination of the ICC Trophy was rewarded with Test status, on the back of which they enjoyed direct qualification to subsequent editions of the tournament. Today, there is a real possibility of them missing the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, what with the likes of the West Indies, Ireland and Afghanistan also desperately vying for the last two berths. It remains to be seen whether Zimbabwe can maintain their spotless record at the Qualifier.


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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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