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ZIMBABWE might be out of the World Cup but the carrot dangled by the opportunity of becoming the first team to beat defending champions India at this tournament means they have everything to fight for in Auckland on Saturday. The Zimbabweans crashed out of the World Cup on Saturday in Hobart in controversial circumstances after Ireland held on to an infamous five-run win following the diabolical dismissal of Sean Williams.

Had the Chevrons beaten the Irish, as should have been the case that night, had a big umpiring decision gone their way, they would have gone into the final match against India needing a win to remain alive in the battle for the knockout stages.

However, the fatal combination of a monumental questionable call by the television umpire and the failure by Regis Chakabva, the last recognised batsman, to hold his nerve when the chase had been whittled to just seven runs in six balls, sent the Zimbabweans crashing out of the tournament.

Statistics will show that the Chevrons have just won one match, against the lightweights of the United Arab Emirates, who have lost all games in four matches following losses to West Indies, South Africa, Pakistan and, of course, that heartbreaking defeat at the hands of the Irish.

But that only tells half the story.

Zimbabwe have been competitive in virtually all the matches, forcing South Africa to lose four wickets before the Proteas had reached hundred, before David Miller and JP Duminy took the game away from them with a World Cup record partnership pregnant with some severe blows.

No one knows what would have happened against the Windies had Chris Gayle, as should have been the case, been given lbw, when on zero, only for him to take full aantage of the life he was given to score a World Cup record score.

Pakistan looked to be on the ropes, and heading out of the tournament after scoring 235, but the Zimbabweans could not mount a successful chase with Mohammad Irfan’s no-balls, which somehow escaped the scrutiny of the umpires, the biggest talking point as he claimed four wickets.

The less the controversy related to the Irish game is talked about, the better for the game, especially against the background of Cricket Ireland launching a complaint with the International Cricket Council in the wake of The Herald’s severe criticism of cricketer John Mooney.

“The match against Ireland is crucial to our chances of progressing, but we will have to beat Pakistan or India, too. It is not impossible – far from it,” former Zimbabwe skipper, Alistair Campbell, had said before the encounters against the Irish and Pakistan.

“But we will have to find a way of limiting the damage in the final overs. The best way, of course, is to take more early wickets. We’re still alive with the possibility of a quarter-final place remaining a reality – not just statistically, but because we are playing well enough to produce an upset.”

But the Chevrons lost against the Irish and Pakistan even though they fought so well, it would be difficult to suggest that Campbell was dreaming when he made those comments in his column on the official ICC Cricket World Cup website.

Now, Zimbabwe have to find a way of becoming the first team to beat India at this World Cup after the defending champions thrashed the Irish yesterday to continue their magical run which has seen them hammer South Africa, beat the West Indies and destroy Pakistan.

Brendan Taylor, who was the Zimbabwe stand-in skipper on Saturday, said the match against India was still very important, even though it was a dead rubber for his men, to show the world that they can compete against the very best in the game.

“Well, it’s another opportunity to try and get all three departments right, and if we do that, there’s no reason why we can’t beat India,” Taylor said.

“We’ve beaten them before back home, so we have that belief we can do it. Yes, they’re one of the best teams in the world playing on a pretty small ground in Auckland, but it’s a great opportunity for us to be in the World Cup and showcase our talent and skills against the best in the world.

“There’s a lot to play for, a lot of pride at stake. We want to try to finish on a high note.”

India made it nine World Cup wins in a row with a win over the Irish spread over two tournaments and the Zimbabweans know that a victory on Saturday will not only bring that run to a halt, but will provide the perfect farewell to a tournament where they stood toe-to-toe against some of the best teams on the globe. Putting one over the Indians will, at least, give them positive mileage across the cricket world and justify their argument that, had fate smiled on them at key occasions at this tourney, they would have been in the knockout stages by now.

The game also provides the Zimbabweans with a chance to take on Duncan Fletcher, who is in the Indian corner as their head coach, who was the Chevrons skipper at their first World Cup in England in 1983.

That group of Zimbabwean cricketers shocked the globe by beating Australia and had eventual champions India on the ropes, five wickets down for just 17 runs, before the immortal Kapil Dev turned the game on its head with one of the greatest ODI knocks of all-time.

Source : The Herald

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