It was always going to be about whether Chris Gayle showed up for the party. And show up he did, in destructive form too! Hurricane Gayle bludgeoned Zimbabwe’s bowling attack at the Manuka Oval on Tuesday on his way to a record double century. The West Indies have become a pretty ordinary side lately – Chris Gayle aside of course. He is that x-factor for the Caribbean side.
If Chris Gayle is the point of difference for the West Indies, then Prosper Utseya is possibly to Zimbabwe’s cricket team what Gayle is to the Indies. Only that, Zimbabwe’s secret sniper wasn’t in the trenches. Faced with a lethal onslaught from Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, Zimbabwe could not go into full ‘defcon mode’ – as Zimbabwe’s bowlers leaked runs in epic fashion. The result was a mammoth 372 run batting innings for the Indies.
Prosper Utseya can stake his claim against some of the best bowlers in international cricket with his economy rate. Only that his Zimbabwe cannot have the privilege of utilizing his potent off spin. Prosper’s bowling action was adjudged to be illegal prior to the World Cup meaning he could only be used as a medium pacer.
His unique ability to tie up one end with his now banished off-spin, virtually clogging the run supply whilst the other bowlers attack the opposition from the other end was always going to be missed. And Zimbabwe went on to face the Caribbean islanders deprived of Prosper’s potency which took a hattrick against the might of South Africa six months ago.
Could the availability of Prosper Utseya with his off-spin in Canberra have been the vital ingredient in Zimbabwe’s quest to restrict the West Indies?
The Zimbabwe bowling attack led by Tinashe Panyangara and Tendai Chatara failed to adequately make inroads in the West Indies attack after having lost the toss and thrown in to bowl.
Granted, the conditions were more suited to batting. “I always try and steer towards the batsmen friendly, one day pitch, ” says Brad Van Dam, curator of the Manuka Oval ground. Despite having received a facelift which entailed making a new pitch from scratch, there would always have been something in it for the bowlers, as there would be a bit of bounce and naturally less wear and tear on the ball. However Zimbabwe failed to capitalise on this, with Sikandar Raza arguably being the peak of the bowlers going for 45 runs in his allotted 10 overs, and even having a maiden over albeit a without a wicket.
As Zimbabwe’s bowling attack introspects going into the final round of group matches, what is clear is how much Prosper Utseya’s off spin was missed against the West Indies. Going forward, who’ll step up and fill the gap he has left in the one day side? Or will the pace bowling attack show more venom? If Zimbabwe is entertaining any hopes of progressing through the group stages, they better do.