By Robson Sharuko
HARARE- ZIMBABWE’S century of Test matches might not have gone the way the country wanted, with the Chevrons crashing to another defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka at Harare Sports Club, but the nation that provided England with two coaching masterminds, who provided Ashes glory, continues to make a big impact on the game around the globe.
The Chevrons battled until the final hour, in a bid to salvage a draw in their 100th Test, but Sri Lanka still managed to find a way to power to a 225-run victory despite the resistance provided by Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer, who followed up his maiden Test century, in the first innings, with a dogged 43 in the second innings.
Rangana Herath, the Sri Lanka stand-in captain, was the star of the show for the Asian powerhouse, as he took 6-135 to ensure there was no Cinderella victory for Zimbabwe’s new coach Heath Streak, who has been tasked with reviving the team’s fortunes and helping them qualify for the 2019 World Cup in England.
Streak’s 216 wickets for Zimbabwe in Tests remain a benchmark for the country’s bowlers and he is the only Zimbabwean to have taken more than 100 Test wickets and most successful captain having led his country to four wins and 11 defeats.
But, long before Streak exploded on the scene, there was a bowling attack, led by 45-year-old John Traicos, who took 5-86 in Zimbabwe’s first drawn Test against India at Harare Sports Club, with the spinner attaining a world record for the longest interval between two appearances in the history of Test cricket.
Traicos had last appeared on the Test scene, in the colours of South Africa, in Port Elizabeth in March 1970 and 22 years would pass before he played his next Test, this time for Zimbabwe, in that historic battle at Harare Sports Club as the world welcomed its newest Test nation.
He became the 14th cricketer to play for two different countries in Test cricket.
Dave Houghton was the star with the bat, in that first Test match, for Zimbabwe as he scored a century to help the Chevrons pile on 456 runs in the first innings before India replied with 307 runs and the match staggered towards a draw after the hosts reached 146 for four on the fifth day of the contest.
One of the key figures of that impressive show by the Zimbabweans was Andy Pycroft, batting at number four, who scored 39 in the first innings and then backed that with a 46 in the second innings as he played the first of his three Tests with his career, in the longer version of the game, coming to an end exactly 20 years ago in the game against New Zealand. Pycroft scored 152 runs in his three Tests, at an average of 30.40 runs, while he also scored 295 runs in 20 ODIs at an average of 17.35 runs as a right-hand batsman and, occasionally, as a right-arm off-break bowler.
While Zimbabwe continues to stagger in the darkness, when it comes to searching for victory in the Test arena, with another loss in their 100th Test against Sri Lanka – a team which the Chevrons are yet to beat in Test battles – the country continues to provide people who are making a huge difference in the game around the globe.
Last week, Pycroft reached a milestone after completing half-a-century of Test matches, as a member of the Emirates Elite Panel of International Cricket Council Match Referees, during the second Test between Australia and South Africa in Hobart which ended on Tuesday with the Proteas – inspired by some brilliant bowling from their pacemen Vernon Philander, Kyle Abbot and Kagiso Rabada – winning by an innings and 80 runs to complete a 2-0 series victory.
“I’m grateful to the ICC for the opportunity it has given me to officiate in international matches, for the support I have been given and the opportunity to stay connected with cricket friends, particularly officials, throughout the world. It has been a privilege and honour,” Pycroft said in a statement released by the ICC.
Now 60-years-old, Pycroft, who was born in Harare on June 6, 1956, had his first Test as a match referee when England took on the West Indies at Lord’s in May 2009.
He officiated in an ODI for the first time in Bristol during the same month while his T20I debut was in the match between Sri Lanka and New Zealand in Colombo in September 2009. Pycroft has officiated in 123 ODIs and 49 T20Is including matches of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 and the ICC World Twenty20 2016.Adrian Griffith, ICC’s Senior Manager – Umpires and Referees, congratulated Pycroft on the achievement.
“Andy has been an asset for us over the years. His experience as a player and administrator, have stood him in good stead and he has been a consistent performer in carrying out his duties. I would like to congratulate Andy on behalf of the ICC and wish him continued success in his career,” he said.
Pycroft, who had stints as coach and chief selector in Zimbabwe before he started officiating as an ICC match referee, represented Zimbabwe in three ICC Cricket World Cups in 1983, 1987 and 1992.
Zimbabwe have already provided England with two coaches, Duncan Fletcher and Andy Flower, who helped turn the tide against Australia in the Ashes showdown as they led the English to victory over their biggest rivals.