Becoming a test nation in 1992, Zimbabwe is one of the most recent nations to have been awarded test status. However, it has a rich and varied cricket history dating back to the late nineteenth century.
History (pre-test status)
The first recorded cricket match played in Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia) took place in 1890, near Fort Victoria. However, first class cricket was not played until 1905, when a team from Rhodesia competed in the South African Currie Cup. They lost their first match to Transvaal by 170 runs. Following the 1905 Currie Cup, Rhodesia
were not invited to compete in the South African tournament again until the early 1930s, when they competed in two consecutive cups. They narrowly missed out on the title in 1931, after losing to Western Province. After the Second World War, Rhodesia returned to the Currie Cup and continued to play regularly in South Africa’s first class league until 1980.
During the fifties and sixties the standard of Rhodesian cricket increased significantly with a number of strong players emerging, including Colin Bland, Percey Mansell and David Lewis, who captained the Rhodesian team between 1953 and 1964. In 1961-62 the International XI were the first team to make a tour of Rhodesia marking Rhodesia’s move towards independence from the rest of South Africa. The seventies saw the emergence of Zimbabwe’s strongest team in its cricketing history but, despite a near win in 1972-73, South Africa also had a strong team that decade and Zimbabwe never managed to win the Currie Cup.
Zimbabwe officially became an independent nation in 1980 and developed the Logan Cup, a domestic league independent of the rest of South Africa. Following its independence, Zimbabwe began playing cricket on an international level, being elected into the ICC the following year. 1982 was a significant year for Zimbabwe, seeing the nation make its first tour of England followed by a triumphant performance in the ICC trophy. Based on their victory in the ICC Cup Zimbabwe were selected to play in the 1983 Cricket World Cup against the eight test nations. Expected to be the underdogs throughout the tournament, Zimbabwe surprised cricket fans worldwide when they beat Australia in the first match of their group by 30 runs. Zimbabwe continued to perform well in one day cricket winning the ICC trophy two further times to qualify for the 1987 and 1992 world cups.
After qualifying for the 1987 World Cup, Zimbabwe was momentously made a test nation and the team played their inaugural test match against India that same year. Held at Harare Sports Club, the match was a draw and Zimbabwe became the first team to avoid losing its first test match since the development of test cricket in 1877. Despite their positive beginnings, however, Zimbabwe played badly during its first few years as a test nation, and many people believed that its cricketing standard was not worthy of test status, although its performance in one day cricket was significantly better. By the end of the nineties Zimbabwe’s performance had picked up, winning test matches against both India and Pakistan in 1998-99 and its team included a number of world class players including Andy Flower who, in his peak, was widely regarded as the best batsman in the world. Around that time, the team’s strength in one day cricket was marked on England’s inaugural tour of Zimbabwe during which the Zimbabwean team beat the English cricketers 3-0 in a one day series.
In 2003 Zimbabwe co-hosted the Cricket World Cup with South Africa, but by that time Zimbabwe’s political situation had begun to decline. That year, Andy Flower and Henry Olonga both wore black armbands in protest against the policies of President Mugabe and at the end of the world cup the players were dismissed from the team and left the country to seek asylum in other nations. In 2004, following the sacking of Heath Streak, the then captain of the Zimbabwe team, fourteen players walked out and the team’s secondary players were left to play in the nation’s scheduled test match. After a particularly unbalanced test match in Sri Lanka, the team agreed that they would play no further test matches in 2004. In 2004 the cricket situation in Zimbabwe looked more positive when Heath Streak was reinstated along with several of the players who walked out following his dismissal. By that stage, however, the team had had so many disruptions that its standard had dropped significantly and in 2005 they had a series of humiliations marked when, in a home match against New Zealand, the team became the first nation since 1952 to be bowled out twice in one day.
By early January 2006 Zimbabwe’s political situation had worsened and the Zimbabwean Government took over the selection process of the nation’s cricket team, resulting in all white and Asian members of the cricket board being dismissed due to allegations of racial agendas. That same month the cricket board announced that the team would not be playing test cricket that year and the Logan Cup was also suspended due, it is presumed, to the waning standards of domestic cricket.
The Zimbabwe team has suffered a series of losses during the last few years due to the nation’s current political crisis but the current squad stands as follows:
- Prosper Utseya
- Brendan Taylor
- Chamu Chibhaba
- Elton Chigumbura
- Keith Dabengwa
- Anthony Ireland
- Stuart Matsikenyeri
- Friday Kasteni
- Christopher Mpofu
- Vusi Sibanda
- Gary Brent
- Edward Rainsford
- Tawanda Mupariwa
- Terry Duffin
- Sean Williams
- Tatendo Taibu
Denis Tomlinson: Tomlinson represented Rhodesia in the Currie Cup, South Africa’s First Class league and became the first Rhodesian cricketer to play test cricket, when he represented South Africa in a test match against England in 1935.
Andy Flower: Making his debut in the 1992 Cricket World Cup, Flower played cricket for Zimbabwe for ten years and, after being dismissed from the Zimbabwe team following his political protests in the 2003 World Cup, he is now the assistant coach of England’s cricket team. Flower is regarded as one of the world’s finest wicket-keeper batsmen and, during his time playing for Zimbabwe, he scored more runs than any other player before or since.
Anthony Ireland: Regarded as a great all-rounder, Ireland is a right-arm medium seam bowler and lower-order batsman who was selected for the 2007 Cricket World Cup but left after the competition to play first-class cricket in England’s domestic league.
Eddo Brandes: A member of the Zimbabwe team between 1987 and 1999, Brandes played in four World Cups, 10 test matches and 59 ODIs over the course of his Zimbabwean career. His most significant moment came in a one day match against England in 1997 when he famously bowled out three consecutive batsmen in the English team.
Tatendo Taibu: Taibu made his first class debut when he was just 16 and became the nation’s first black captain following the dismissal of Heath Streak in 2004. He is a good wicket keeper and batsman and one of the few players in the current squad who is regarded as playing to international standard.