Eddie Chikamhi Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE cricket captain Elton Chigumbura acknowledges the last two months have been disappointing for the national team and pressure is now on them to turn things around.
They host Ireland in a three-match One Day International cricket series that begins today at Harare Sports Club.
Matches between Zimbabwe and Ireland have always produced close contests with the most recent being the clash at ICC World Cup early this year when Ireland claimed a controversial five-run win in Hobart, Australia.
But all that is now in the past.
The Chevrons are looking to score some success following losses to India, New Zealand and Pakistan in recent home series.
“It’s an important series for us. We just have to make sure that we play our best cricket. I am sure if we play our best cricket we will come up on top,” said Chigumbura.
“Obviously, we are looking forward to this series. It’s going to be hard cricket, but we just have to make sure that we are on top in all the games that we play against Ireland. When we go out there we want to win every game that we play and obviously we have got more expectations to win these games, especially this series against Ireland.
“There is a lot of pressure on us, but we just have to rise to the occasion.”
The Zimbabwe selectors yesterday named a largely unchanged squad for the series with top order batsman Hamilton Masakadza being the notable omission.
Masakadza was dropped because of poor form following disappointing performances with the bat in the recent series against Pakistan.
However, his younger brother, Wellington, has been included in the squad, but is unlikely to feature today.
Spin bowler Graeme Cremer, who sprained his left ankle during the second ODI against Pakistan, remains unavailable for selection, with suspected ligament damage.
Zimbabwe physiotherapist Anesu Mupotaringa said Cremer will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging scan to confirm the actual extent of the ligament damage.
Top-order batsman Craig Ervine, who complained of left hamstring pain, has been included in the 15-man squad after prolonged practice without much complaint.
Convener Kenyon Ziehl said he will be subject to a late fitness test this morning.
Ireland skipper William Porterfield yesterday said they are looking to win the series to underline their stature as a growing cricket nation.
Ireland are currently ranked 10th on the ICC Rankings, one place above Zimbabwe who are in 11th place.
“We want to keep progressing up the ladder. So it’s going to be quite big for ourselves especially away from home. I think a series win here is going to be good for ourselves,” said Porterfield.
Ireland believe the presence of former Zimbabwe captain and coach Dave Houghton in their dressing room, as a consultant for this tour, has given them the advantage.
Their coach Doug Bracewell said he was looking forward to some positive performances.
“We are lucky that a lot of our guys have come from the English summer playing county cricket. So we have got enough cricket behind us. I think we have acclimatised pretty quickly in terms of dealing with the change of surfaces,” said Bracewell.
“We are wary of the resourcefulness, the ability to have players that can take the game away from you quickly, turn the game around. We are wary of that we need to concentrate the full 100 overs and stay focused.
“That will be the challenge for us obviously,” said Bracewell.
Ireland and Zimbabwe will meet in the second ODI on Sunday while the final match has been slated for next Tuesday.
Ireland will then play a four-day match against Zimbabwe A at the same venue, starting on October 17.
Zimbabwe have a busy schedule as they will host Afghanistan in Bulawayo. Afghanistan arrived in Bulawayo on Wednesday and will start off their tour with three warm-up games against a Zimbabwe Chairman’s XI at Bulawayo Athletic Club.
The 50-over matches are on the 8th, 10th and 12th of October.
After the warm-up matches, Afghanistan will stay on in Bulawayo for five ODI and two Twenty20 International matches against Zimbabwe, at Queens.
Elton Chigumbura (Captain), Sikandar Raza Butt, Brian Chari, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Luke Jongwe, Neville Madziva, Wellington Masakadza, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Richmond Mutumbami (W/keeper), Taurai Muzarabani, John Nyumbu, Tinashe Panyangara, Malcolm Waller, Sean Williams.
William Porterfield (capt), Andrew Balbirnie, George Dockrell, Ed Joyce, John Mooney, Tim Murtagh, Andrew McBrine, Kevin O’’Brien, Niall O’’Brien, Stuart Poynter (wk), Max Sorensen, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson (wk), Craig Young.