Sean Williams' performances are reminiscent of the golden Zimbabwe era
With over half of the World Cup done with, it is safe to say that the tournament has left onlookers pleasantly surprised. Ridiculed for a never ending schedule and a format that promised a glut of one-sided encounters; the cricket has been surprisingly refreshing. Though the balance has, as usual, tilted unfavorably towards the bat, the so-called ‘minnows’ have played out of their skins to lend respectability to the format and a welcome unpredictability to the qualification scenario.
While Bangladesh and Ireland need special mention for being on the cusp of knockout qualification, a few of the teams headed home should also do so with their heads held high. England will definitely NOT be on that list while Zimbabwe should surely be on it.
Sean Williams’ coming of age
Before they take on Pool B winners India in their final game of the World Cup, Zimbabwe will look back on a campaign that promised much more than it actually delivered. Coming into the tournament with modest expectations, Zimbabwe have given a good account of themselves. A lot of that credit should go to Sean Williams, who has been one of the stand-out performers of the first half of the World Cup and has shown a rare maturity on the field of play.
Though they have lost 4 of the 5 games they played in; Zimbabwe could and should have won 2 of them with a little more luck. A dignified loss against South Africa followed a spirited chase against bottom-placed UAE and though a Chris Gayle-special sank them against the West Indies, they will rue their losses against Pakistan and Ireland the most.
In Zimbabwe’s World Cup campaign, Williams has so far posted scores of 8, 76*, 76, 33 and 96 at an average of 72.25, lending a new found solidity to the batting order in the company of the dependable Brendan Taylor. His consistency is staggering, when you take into account the fact that Zimbabwe were chasing in all 5 of their games.
He walked out to bat at 112/3 against UAE with Zimbabwe chasing 286 and took them home with a fluent, unbeaten 76. Against Pakistan, he walked out at 74/3 and played out a stodgy, defiant 33, with Zimbabwe chasing a modest 236. They looked in control with 86 runs needed off 17 overs, before perishing due to an ill-judged cut and Zimbabwe ended up 20 runs short.
Williams’ best innings
His best innings came against Ireland, where he joined Taylor in the middle with the innings tottering at 74/4 and Zimbabwean hopes hanging by a thread in a must-win game. While Taylor constructed a dominant hundred, Williams was his assured self and with both of them looking comfortable, Ireland’s score looked under threat.
Even after Taylor fell for a mistimed drive, Williams looked set to take Zimbabwe over the line, before he was caught by John Mooney on the boundary while on 96. Mooney’s leg had touched the rope, but with Williams having tragically walked off before the umpires called for a review, he was judged out and Ireland were back in control. In the end, Zimbabwe fell excruciatingly short by 5 runs, and their tournament was over.
To complement his 289 runs, Sean Williams also has 7 wickets at an average of 36 in the tournament so far. This return, in a tournament where only a handful of spinners can be termed successful, has been a huge positive that Zimbabwe will take away from this tournament.
Williams may just be what Zimbabwe need to rise again
At all times that he was in the middle, Williams looked an assured presence, and with a little bit of support from the tail, he could have kept Zimbabwe in contention for a place in the knock-outs. For a country which has not just produced batting heroes such as the Flower brothers and Alastair Campbell, but also genuine all-rounders of the likes of Neil Johnson and Andy Blignaut, Sean Williams’ name does not look like a bad apple in a bunch.
For a cricketing country in a perpetual state of tumult, it is not surprising that Williams has been in and out of the team in recent times, having been dropped from Zimbabwe’s tour to Bangladesh for what he calls ‘reasons unknown’ to him. Having pondered on moving out of Zimbabwe in search of a stable cricketing career multiple times, a last minute change in the selection panel meant that Williams was brought back into the squad for the World Cup.
The Zimbabwean system needs a desperate lift, if they are to reclaim the decent reputation they once enjoyed and for that to happen, it is imperative that the likes of Sean Williams are given their due.