Zimbabwe urged to dream big in World Cup Super 12s
Zimbabwe coach Dave Houghton has urged his team to dream big as they enter the Super 12 stage of the men’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
The Chevrons, who are playing their first global tournament for six years, have won nine of their past 11 Twenty20 internationals.
“We wanted to get into the Super 12 and play against the big sides again,” Houghton told BBC Sport Africa.
“Now that we are here, we want to beat them. Nothing will be better for me than to start off in our next game and beat the South Africans.
“Our job is to knock over some of these big sides. We are playing pretty good cricket. The pressure is not so much on us but on the sides who play against us.”
Houghton returned as Zimbabwe coach in June, and the former national team captain guided the side through T20 World Cup qualifiers on home soil a month later.
After finishing top of a first-round group in Australia which also included the West Indies and Ireland, Zimbabwe – who are 11th in the T20 world rankings – will also face India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Netherlands in the Super 12.
“These are big sides that we’re playing against,” Houghton, 65, added.
“I’m hoping that we can come out and take a few scalps with us. I’m also hoping they can finish in the top eight [of the tournament].”
Zimbabwe opened their tournament with an impressive 31-run victory against Ireland which appeared to set them in good stead, but defeat by the West Indies in their second game set up a tense finale against Scotland.
Chasing 133 to win, Zimbabwe were 42-3 after eight overs but valuable innings from captain Craig Ervine and all-rounder Sikandar Raza helped them over the line with nine balls to spare.
The target now for Houghton is quite clear.
If Zimbabwe can finishing in the top four in their group it means they will go straight into the Super 12 stage at the next T20 World Cup, which will be held in the West Indies and the United States in 2024.
“What you really want to do is try and make sure you don’t have to play in qualifiers as often as you can,” said Houghton.
“For us to do that we need to finish in the top eight.
“These qualification things are right on the edge; win and we stay, lose and we go home. It was a very, very pressurised game against Scotland. My bags [were] packed because we’d have been straight on the plane if we lost.
“The only thing we needed in that chase was to keep our heads. The captain [Ervine] played a really sound innings and Raza contributed, as he does in just about every game for us, but I wasn’t really settled until we’d got over the line.”
Chevrons benefitting from pressurised games
Zimbabwe reached the T20 World Cup by beating Papua New Guinea by 27 runs in Bulawayo in the semi-final of the qualifying tournament in July.
They then overcame the Netherlands in a final which was played to decide the seedings for the first round group stage of the tournament in Australia.
Houghton has no fear of burn-out through following the crunch finale against the Scots in Hobart and believes that their run to this stage will serve them well.
“We haven’t expanded a lot of physical energy,” he said.
“There’s been a fair amount of mental energy but our guys will be fine. They’re so excited to get through to this stage.
“The one thing that’s been really good for us is we’ve now had a couple of these highly pressurised games that we’ve had to get over the line with.
“I take that right back to Bulawayo when we first had to qualify – that semi-final we played against Papua New Guinea. That wasn’t an easy game mentally.
“It was a very tough game because to lose that you’re out. And we had exactly the same game [against Scotland].
“We’ve won a couple of tough games under pressure. And I think that’ll stand us in good stead as we go forward.”