Zimbabwe spinners shine in big win over Canada

Zimbabwe rode on the big partnership between Tatenda Taibu and Craig Ervine to pull off a 175-run over Canada in their World Cup Group A match at Nagpur

 By Jamie Alter


Nagpur: Feb 28, 2011


Zimbabwe overpowered a beleaguered Canadian outfit, winning the first contest between smaller teams by a massive 175-run margin in Nagpur. During the morning the Zimbabweans, led by Tatenda Taibu and Craig Ervine, overcame a poor start and set Canada an intimidating 299-run target.


They owed much to Taibu and Ervine, whose 181-run third wicket partnership in 27.1 overs formed the crux of their total, as well as to an eighth-wicket stand that prevented Canada from running riot.


Then their slow bowlers, Ray Price with his asphyxiating accuracy and Prosper Utseya with his variations, exploited Canada’s weakness against spin. Canada, facing the prospect of not playing further World Cup cricket, were never in the hunt after another awful start and were eventually bowled out for 124 in 42.1 overs.


From seven for two, life was breathed back into the Zimbabwean innings by Taibu and Ervine. The way the pair batted, it seemed the two early wickets were an aberration. Ervine drove and cut crisply; Taibu shuffled around and threw the bowlers off their lines.


The first sign of spin was greeted by Taibu driving and sweeping delicately, and he repeated the dosage to Jimmy Hansra in his second over. Rizwan Cheema’s slow offerings were equal fodder for Taibu, who collected two boundaries off him in the 15th over to ease past his fifty.


After a duck against Australia, Ervine made full use of the early over fielding restrictions with a clever combination of improvised deflections and brute force. He used his crease well, often turning good deliveries into hittable ones. Against the faster men, Ervine stood firm and drove hard on the rise and against spin he charged and swept very well.


With the pair going along briskly, 45 runs came between overs 20-25. Both implemented the sweep well and a flurry of boundaries kept the scoring rate very healthy. Zimbabwe looked set for a stratospheric score at the mid-way point of their innings, but Canada clawed their way back during the second half of the innings thanks to an energetic performance from Balaji Rao (four for 57).


Rao, the former Tamil Nadu leg-spinner, grabbed the wickets of Ervine (85), Taibu (98), Greg Lamb (11) and Sean Williams (30) in quick succession while Cheema chipped in with the wicket of the Zimbabwean captain Elton Chigumbura. 


Nevertheless, despite the mid-innings wobble that saw Zimbabwe slip to 240 for 7, Graeme Cremer (26) and Utseya (22) finished the innings strongly with a 41-run eighth wicket stand. Canada were mediocre in the field at times, and will feel let down that they didn’t stamp their authority after two key junctures.


Canada clearly needed a strong start if they were ever going to challenge the Zimbabwean total but Price quickly crushed such slim hopes as the opposition slumped to seven for three.  After losing his off stump first ball against Sri Lanka, John Davison charged Price’s first delivery and suffered an identical fate. The 16-year-old Nitish Kumar scored just one before chipping a return catch to Prince, and Bagai swept his first ball to square leg.


Canada averted the hat-trick only to stumble further against Utseya, who tossed the ball up and extracted Hansra, stumped easily, and Cheema, hitting to square leg (66 for six). Cremer wasted little time in getting into the action and trapped Tyson Gordon with a quick skidding delivery.


With Canada having slipped to 97 for 8 in the 35th over, Zubin Zurkari (26) and Baidwain (13*) were left fighting for pride only as the contest petered out into another drab finale.


It was Price, with an outstanding opening spell of 7-4-12-3, who was the stand-out bowler. Frugal as always and never shying away from getting in the batsmen’s face, he snuffed out any chance Canada thought they had.


His line rarely wavered from middle and off and the minimal turn he extracted was enough to keep the Canadians guessing. His display set the tone for the other spinners to step up. Zimbabwe had used just one seamer today, and the slow men duly showed that they were more than enough.


Brief Scores: Zimbabwe 298 for 9 in 50 overs (Tatenda Taibu 98, Craig Ervine 85; Balaji Rao 4 for 57, Khurram Chohan 2 for 44, Harvir Baidwan two for 47) bt Canada 123 in 42.1 overs (Zubin Surkari 26, Ruvindu Gunasekera 24; Ray Price 3 for 16, Graeme Cremer 3 for 31, Prosper Utseya 2 for 24, Greg Lamb 2 for 29) by 175 runs.


Man of the Match: Tatenda Taibu.


(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine.His first book, The History of World Cup Cricket, is out now)


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