Zimbabwe would be desperately disappointed after their consecutive losses to Ireland and Bangladesh.
The gapping question is whether there was anything to get excited about in the first place. What goes without saying is that these practice matches surely have the coaches both worried and frustrated and the players confidence will also have taken a knock leading up to their crucial opening match against the hosts Sri Lanka at 4pm local time tommorow afternoon.
One could possibly be a little understanding and sympathetic to the fact that Zimbabwe played their first match approximately 24 hours after their arrival in Sri Lanka. Ireland on the other hand had already spent a week in Colombo and were fully rested. In all fairness, the Zimbabwean players would still have been suffering from the affects of jetlag as well as having to suddenly acclimatised to the sweltering weather conditions. There are yet critics out there who would say that this sounds like another one of many excuses and that the time has come for the team to stand up and be counted on a regular base. The fact is, that it is extremely hard to be at your best after spending a considerable time in airports and aircrafts and then having to play a game the very next day.
Nevertheless, both warm up matches were disappointing with only Hamilton Masakadza and Vusi Sibanda showing any real sign of form with Masakadza making 44 against Ireland and Sibanda 40 against Bangladesh. Other than that, none of the top or middle order scored runs of substance. The bowling has also been poorly.
If we cast our mind back to the T20 world cup that was played in the West Indies two years ago, everybody was in high spirits and confident that Zimbabwe would cause an upset after beating both Australia and Pakistan in two warm up matches before being badly beaten by New Zealand and Sri Lanka in the group stages, which may very well make those who are superstitious believe that Zimbabwe will go on to beat either Sri Lanka or South Africa, or both teams for that matter and qualify for the super eights!
In all seriousness, can Zimbabwe recover in such a short space of time and cause an upset by beating one of these cricketing legends?
The answer to that would be that it is unlikely but most definetly not impossible. But in order to beat a team like Sri Lanka or South Africa it would need a complete team effort.
A problem that has become a real and genuine concern is that Zimbabwe's batting order has become top heavy as they rely too much on the top three to make runs while the middle order continues to be a worry as batsman after batsman get in but don't go on to make scores of any significance.
Even when Zimbabwe won the Pran RFL T20 triangular series, it was thanks in the main to Vusi Sibanda, Brendan Taylor and the close to super human performances from Hamilton Masakadza which put runs on the board which in turn was backed up by some steady bowling and very good fielding.
None of these ingredients which go towards producing positive results have been evident in the warm up matches.
But the beauty or perhaps frustration about the team is that it is a very unpredictable team and even though Sri Lanka and South Africa are blessed with an abundance of talent, Zimbabwe are more than capable of springing a surprise in the game's most unpredictable version.
After the one-sided T20 final played between Zimbabwe and South Africa during the PRAN RFL final almost a month ago, South Africa's cricket selectors pulled no punches when they announced their squad to play Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka A in the ongoing 50-over Triangular Series.
Up till now, SA A have been unbeaten in the tournament though they were stretched when playing Zimbabwe A in their first round robin match when they squeaked home by two wickets. Had Zimbabwe A held on to their catches and fielded better, the outcome may have been different.
South Africa A have a number of players who at some point in their career have played for, and more importantly, have also made runs or taken wickets at the highest level for the Proteas. Zimbabwe A also have a few players who have had international experience. The likes of Craig Ervine, Shingi Masakadza, Elton Chigumbura and Vusi Sibanda have played more than their fair share of international cricket.
But what has been very encouraging to observe is the promise shown by some of the younger players such as Richard Muzhange, Tinotenda Mutombodzi and Tafadzwa Kamungozi. Both Kamungozi and Mutombodzi were hugely instrumental in restricting a powerful and experienced South African A batting line up to what would have been a disappointing total of 215 in Wednesdays game when South Africa A looked set for 300.
In the past, bowling has always been a concern but at the moment, the bowlers have done Zimbabwe A proud with their consistency. The area of concern however most definetly lies with the batting. There is a lot of fire power and potential in the batting line up but throughout the series, there has been a certain amount of apprehension shown by all the batsmen.
Yes, there has been some good bowling at times, but all the batsmen have been very reluctant to express themselves and to up the tempo. Strong teams such as South Africa are very good at tightening the screws while applying pressure, but they are also only human and once you take the game to them by playing attacking and aggressive cricket, they will begin to feel the pressure like any other team.
So taking advantage of the power plays when batting and rotating the strike by running hard between the wickets are am absolute must if Zimbabwe A have any hope of winning the final. Tinotenda Mawoyo started off very nicely by scoring 66 and 52 in the first two games but the slight concern is the number of balls he faced when scoring his runs. 102 balls against Sri Lanka A and 82 against South Africa A which meant that in all, he scored 118 runs off 186 balls at a strike rate of 63-4 which is a fraction low in the one day format.
But whatever the outcome of Saturdays final, Zimbabwe can be very proud of the fact that both the national team as well as the A team have made it to the finals of their respective tournaments.
Cricket fans around the country would have been pleasantly surprised when the news broke that the five T20 matches that are going to be played between Zimbabwe and South Africa in June have now been changed to a Triangular series which now includes Bangladesh. This will be the first time that Zimbabwe has played host to a T20 triangular series and by all accounts, it has the makings of a lip smacking affair.
There is no doubt that T20 Cricket and in particular the Indian premier league (IPL)has dominated world cricket for the last four years. Players all over the world have been fortunate enough to play for the various Indian teams and some have graduated into fine players who have made cricket lovers around the world sit up and take note.
This year has been no exception as once again crowds have been enthralled by big hits, clever bowling and spectacular catches. Even though Zimbabwe have no players in this years addition, there is still a keen interest as fans get to know the teams and follow their favourite players.
As per normal, South Africa have a strong contingent of players but three in particular have made a huge impression in season five of the IPL. Recently appointed ODI and T20 skipper AB de Villiers has been at his usual brilliant best delighting the crowds with a fantastic array of strokes while fast bowler Morne Morkel has shown that his pace and bounce is just as effective on the Indian pitches as he currently has the most wickets in the tournament. But the player who has stolen the lime light has been the exciting young Francois du Plessis. Faf as he is affectionately known is better known as a crunching middle order player has been promoted up the order to open the batting for the Chenai super kings and If the results are anything to go by, he seems to be loving every moment of his new position as he finds himself the second highest run scorer in the IPL.
These are just some of the many positives but many purests of the game are beginning to feel 2020 Cricket is taking over as many players around the world have literally become traveling sails men going from one tournament to another and turning a blind eyeMedia on their country and test Cricket which up to a few years ago was every aspiring young cricketer's dream. Chris Gayle from the West Indies is a prime example and many players have taken his cue which will surely tarnishe Cricket's purest version as players are slowly lured away thanks to the substantial amounts being offered by the various franchises and teams around the world which mean that countries such as the West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are in very real danger of loosing quality players to a seemingly bottomless pitmobile of financial gain.
After a considerably improved batting performance in the recently concluded Twenty20 internationals, Zimbabwe's top order will feel a great deal happier with themselves as they return back home to catch up on some quality time with their loved ones.
Now that we have had time to digest the horrors of the test match the Zimbabwean national cricket team should focus on what lies ahead.
But what did happened? We all knew it wouldn't be easy but none of us expected to be thrashed by an innings and 301 runs in side three days.
Brendan Taylor got it spot on when he won the toss and elected to bowl on a wicket that had just enough to keep the seamers interested throughout the first day of play.
Both Kyle Jarvis and Brian Vitori had their moments in the first session when Jarvis had Brendon Mccullum playing at away swinging deliveries out side the off stump and Vitori took most of the batsmen by surprise with well directed bouncers.
But sadly from Zimbabwe's point of view this happened few and far between as the New Zealand openers took full advantage of some wayward bowling and average fielding from the Zimbabweans.
Another surprising and somewhat disappointing observation was the lack of pace by the three seamers.
Jarvis, vitori and Shingi Masakadza are all capable of nudging the 140/h mark from time to time and would normally consistently bowl between 130 to 135/h. How ever, the quickest ball recorded through out the New Zealand innings was 136km per hour by Brian Vitori who looked far from the threatening bowler who had the Bangladesh batsmen weaving and defending back in August.
The lack of pace also led to several catches falling short of the fielders at slip and one can't help but feel that if the bowlers were about 10 km per hour quicker, the slip fielders would have been in business.
When Zimbabwe came out to bat, most people would have felt that avoiding the follow on target of 296 would have been more than realistic given the fact that Zimbabwe had scored 328 runs in the warm up match on a lively wicket against a number of test players. But what became very apparent was that none of the top order were able to spot Chris Martin's in swinging deliverie or his deliverie that held it's line. Hence the dismissals of Tino Mawoyo and Forster Mutiswa.
Another telling factor was the catching by New Zealand. Any shot that was played in the air and that went to a fielder was pounced on by New Zealand who maintained relentless pressure with the ball and in the field.
The one man who needs special mention is Regis Chakabva. He rewarded the selectors in the warming match with a highly impressive knock of 87 not out and showed a wonderful mixture of defence and attack as he started off slowly and then upped the tempo as he struck 12 fours and two sixes.
So when he came to the wicket with Zimbabwe in absolute tatters at 12/5, not to many people would have given him much of a chance to stick around, let alone score runs.
But that is exactly what he did. And even though his 68 came no where close to saving the match, his cool temperment, outward calmness and maturity has unquestionably shown that even though Chakabva may be short in stature, he has the ability to stand tall amongst the wreckage of a top and mid order collapse.
When a team plays as badly as Zimbabwe did in the one off test, it is natural to want to lash out in frustration at every body involved but there are a few very important statistics to remember before venting ones frustration.
It is important to remember that the Zimbabwe playing 11 had only played74 test matches including those played before Zimbabwe left the test arena while the entire squad had played 110 test matches with Tatenda Taibu having played 27.
The New Zealand squad on the other hand had played 318 tests with Daniel Vettori's contribution being 107 tests. Just 3 test matches less than the entire Zimbabwean squad.
However, the players themselves will be the first to admit that their performance was well below the standards and expectations they would have set themselves and if the one day series starting on Friday were to have similar results as the test match, even the biggest fan would be hard pressed to find an acceptable excuse in a form of Cricket they are well experienced with.
So after a few days of rest and soul searching, it would be fare to say that the test match is done and dusted and that all the focus should be on restoring some pride as they take on New Zealand in the shorter version of the game.