Don't bet on Zimbabwe improving against Proteas

The Zimbabwe cricket national team.
The Zimbabwe cricket national team.
Image: Zimbabwe Cricket via Facebook

You can place bets on Friday’s games in the South African franchise T20 competition‚ Saturday’s fare in the Bangladesh Premier League and the Ashes and‚ already‚ the 2019 World Cup.

But those keen to have a flutter on the four-day‚ day/night‚ pink-ball test between South Africa and Zimbabwe at St George’s Park starting on Boxing Day could struggle to spend their money.

None of the several online gambling sites SowetanLIVE consulted on Friday offered odds on the match.

That’s to be expected: which bookie would put their money where their mouths are on anything except a resounding win for South Africa?

Not only have Zimbabwe lost all three tests they’ve played in South Africa‚ they’ve lost them all by an innings in four‚ three and two days.

Since Zimbabwe last played a test here‚ in Centurion in March 2005‚ their game has gone steadily backwards thanks to player unhappiness — and consequent retirement and flight — caused by chronic administrative mismanagement.

Last month they were beaten at home by those other lost causes of test cricket‚ West Indies.

The Windies won the first match by 117 runs and the second was drawn.

“We were quite happy with a draw in the end‚” Zimbabwe’s captain‚ Graeme Cremer‚ told ESPNCricinfo.

“All in all‚ lots of positives‚” added their coach‚ Heath Streak.

And that‚ remember‚ from a side who had just lost a series. At home. To opponents any self-respecting test team should be embarrassed to be beaten by.

Success for Zimbabwe has come to mean individual achievements rather than that thing other teams do: win.

So Hamilton Masakadza’s century and Sikander Raza’s five-wicket haul against the West Indians will be celebrated for years yet‚ and the fact that the series was lost will be accepted as the norm for a team who have won only four of the 43 rubbers they have played.

That’s not to say Zimbabwe don’t produce fine players. They’re just not good at welding those players into good teams‚ and they never have been — not even when Streak captained a side that included Andy and Grant Flower.

Nothing suggests that trend will be bucked in Port Elizabeth later this month.

You can dream that it will‚ particularly if you’re Zimbabwean.

But you can’t bet on it.

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