Zimbabwe Cricket History in the cricket world is not fluke at all by any margin. Back in the 90s, the Zimbabwe cricket team was exceptionally great to beat any best side in the business on his day under any circumstances. Very unfortunate that they are struggling now to keep their existence alive in cricket alive. It’s hard to believe that players like Andy Flower, Heath Streak, Tatenda Taibu and Dougas Marillier were the part of Zimbabwe Cricket in the initial days of their rebuilding phase and never received the kind of success due to underrated team.
In the recent test series against Afghanistan where both the teams have ended up the red-ball series with 1-1 after Afghanistan has won the second test match by 6 wickets to derail the opportunity of visitors winning the test series. But it was not the easy victory for hosts as Zimbabwe fought till the end to almost push Afghanistan out of the test match which somewhere proves it again their authority of not the underrated team to be considered.
Again the political structure and communication between the players and boards are some of the basic things which lead the foundation of any great team. But surprisingly this ingredient is missing in the Zimbabwe cricket team which in result many players have been retired way earlier due to this absurd system while in some cases the talent was completely wasted. At once in the late 90s era, this was the same Zimbabwe nation who had the most complete team ever which even the Indian fan at once was worried that they could also defeat us after they were considered as the minnows.
Exact on this day last year the lockdown was for the first time declared. Even the current situation shows that we can see another lockdown any time soon if the situation gets a little worse from here. Having said, let us go back in the golden era of cricket to refresh our memories with some surreal performances of Zimbabwe against the best in the business.
Zimbabwe vs Pakistan, 1998:
Zimbabwe Second tour of Pakistan in 1998 for 3-test match series. Pakistan was led by Aamir Sohail followed by Alistair Campbell for Zimbabwe in test series. The hosts Pakistan had enough players in his side like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar and captain himself Aamir Sohail and they were favourites to humiliate the visitors once again like they did in 1996.
But things got worse and visitors had registered their first overseas win by 1-0 after the two test matches were unable to be played. It was hard to believe that Pakistan could lose the match to a team like Zimbabwe in the 90s era when they were the most complete team ever. The first test match ended up in the four days after visitors had invited Pakistan to bat first.
In both innings, Pakistan only managed to score 296 and 103 runs respectively after great bowling by Heath Streak and Henry Olongs who picked 4-4 wickets in the respective innings. While Zimbabwe in the first innings had scored 238 runs after the brilliant century from Neil Johnson who scored 107 runs off 117 runs to provide enough resistance into the scoreboard of Zimbabwe.
After Pakistan was all out at the score of 103 in the second innings, the target for Zimbabwe was 162 which they had chased down with 7 wickets in hand to clinch the first test victory and later series win.
Zimbabwe vs South Africa, 1999:
If we consider that victory against Pakistan was fluke at once, then this surreal performance against the all-time great South Africa team of 90s era was the statement to the cricket world we were here to play serious cricket.
In the Group game of 1999 world cup, Zimbabwe had two wins and two defeats out of the four they had featured in the tournament so far. For the super six stage they had to win at least 3 games out of the 5 and if South Africa was the team they had to face in a do and die situation it was impossible to even think that Zimbabwe could even beat the team like South Africa under any circumstances.
After batting first, Zimbabwe had scored 233 runs in their allotted 50 overs with once again stunning performance of Neil Johnson who scored 76 runs to help Zimbabwe to reach respectable total. In response South Africa managed to score 185 runs with Neil Johnson picked three wickets to not only derail the chase for South Africa but also humiliated them with the shocking defeat. With this victory Zimbabwe qualified for the super six stage of the 1999 world cup.
Zimbabwe vs India,1999:
Zimbabwe began their campaign of 1999 world cup with the victory against Kenya by 5 wickets where Neil Johnson contributed 59 runs to help Zimbabwe chase down the small total. From here they had to play against India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and England in the remaining four games of the group stage round so their chances were almost zero to even compete against those world heavyweights.
But their second game against India in the tournament stunned the cricket world with the storm when they restricted India before the target when it almost confirmed the victory for them.
After batting first Zimbabwe scored 252 runs in their allotted 50 overs with the unbeaten knock of Andy Flower who scored 68 off 85 balls. In reply, team India was given the target of 253 runs in 46 overs due to the slow over rate in the first innings. Team India was very much in the chase from the start provided by their openers but got derailed in between after some great bowling from Zimbabwe.
But thanks to the lower order batsman of team India who brought them back into the match and the equation boiled down to 9 runs required off 12 balls. With victory was almost formality now, Henry Olonga from Zimbabwe had other plans that day who bowled the 49th over and the rest was history when he picked up three wickets to clinch the 3 runs victory over India out of nowhere. Match was ended before the last over could bowled.