Noth­ing like a big up­set – so ku­dos to Zim­babwe


IT FI­NALLY came in the early af­ter­noon on Tues­day.

Left arm or­tho­dox bowler Welling­ton Masakadza, a mem­ber of Zim­babwe’s fa­mous cricket dynasty, de­liv­ered a pearler against Ari­ful Haque, in­duc­ing him into a top edge. The ball skyed to keeper Regis Chak­abva, who caught it and promptly claimed two of the wick­ets as keep­sakes. The catch was more than a mere wicket, more than a mere win. For Zim­babwe, it was a mile­stone, a mo­ment of pure his­tory, Bangladesh’s fi­nal wicket giv­ing them a 151-run win.

Such joys have been fleet­ing in Zim­babwe’s re­cent past. The tri­umph in Syl­het was their first away Test win in 17 years, when Masakadza was still in Grade Three. They had lost 16 suc­ces­sive Tests over­seas.

They had scarcely en­joyed greater suc­cess at home, their last Test win in Zim­babwe com­ing five years ago against Pak­istan.

What’s remarkable is how Zim­babwe have been able to sus­tain their sup­port through­out this time. Their sup­port­ers have kept com­ing back to the well, more in hope than ex­pec­ta­tion, and have slipped away into the night with dis­ap­point­ment a con­stant com­pan­ion.

It’s a per­ilous place to oc­cupy in sport, for what un­der­pins the in­tegrity of every match is the con­test it­self. We all have our favourite teams, but no-one wants to see a walkover. Sport loses its essence if we know who is go­ing to win every time. It also loses its ap­peal.

This ex­plains why the Boks’ re­cent win against the All Blacks in Welling­ton was so crit­i­cal. The fa­mous ri­valry had lost its edge, di­luted by NZ’S ex­tra­or­di­nary dom­i­nance. Re­signed in­dif­fer­ence had taken hold among Bok fans.

What fol­lowed the big up­set was height­ened in­ter­est. The in­trigue was back, fans flocked to Lof­tus Vers­feld and TV view­ers tuned in.

Had form and ex­pec­ta­tion dic­tated in­ter­est in the re­cent Cur­rie Cup fi­nal, few would have both­ered watch­ing. Western Province had slayed ev­ery­one, among them the Sharks, and were heavy favourites to lift the tro­phy. But the capri­cious na­ture of sport, mar­ried to the ev­i­dent com­pla­cency of se­rial win­ners, played its part as the Sharks pro­duced a muscular per­for­mance that shocked the rugby com­mu­nity.

The in­tegrity of every tour­na­ment should be un­der­pinned by this pos­si­bil­ity. Say what you like about the PSL. It has spice and in­trigue and any team can gen­er­ally beat the other. There are no sure things, not­with­stand­ing that the tra­di­tional big teams tend to stand the test of time. The English Pre­mier­ship is much the same. The bet­ter teams tend to grav­i­tate to the top, but you can never ex­clude the pos­si­bil­ity of a fairy tale, as Leicester so won­der­fully pro­vided in the 2015/16 sea­son.

Or Red Star Bel­grade, who this week won their first Cham­pi­ons League game in 26 years, against Liver­pool.

The point is that sport must re­tain the ca­pac­ity to sur­prise, to evoke won­der. Hap­pily, stroppy Zim­babwe threw out the form book to re­mind us of this sweet truth in the most em­phatic way. FOR its 51st edi­tion, the Mother of Hard En­duro has un­der­gone an ‘ex­treme’ make-over.

With an all-new route, the 2018 Mo­tul Roof of Africa will pro­vide rid­ers with a chal­lenge that’s wor­thy of be­ing the next edi­tion of Africa’s old­est of­froad race.

Taking place in the Moun­tain King­dom of Le­sotho from December 5-8, the Mo­tul Roof of Africa is all about ex­tremes: south­ern Africa’s high­est peaks and passes, and its most beau­ti­ful alpine scenery.

With two thirds of this year’s route hav­ing never fea­tured in the Roof be­fore and the re­main­ing third con­sist­ing of ar­eas that have not fea­tured in the race since 2010, even the most ex­pe­ri­enced of Hard En­duro rid­ers will find them­selves fac­ing new and un­fa­mil­iar ter­rain.

There are also plans afoot, still to be con­firmed, for Round the Houses to be moved to a new, spec­ta­tor and traf­fic friendly venue on the out­skirts of Maseru which prom­ises to of­fer an ex­cit­ing start to the week­end’s rac­ing.

Mo­tul Roof of Africa event or­gan­iser, Peter Luck, com­mented that, “With an all-new route, we’re hon­oured to have the chance to re­spect the her­itage of this race, while still of­fer­ing Gold, Sil­ver and Bronze rid­ers new chal­lenges and the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore pre­vi­ously un­seen cor­ners of Le­sotho.

“It’s a fresh new ap­proach to the Mother of Hard En­duro, and will prove that the race is def­i­nitely not get­ting soft in its old age.”

He adds, “We have also re­viewed the doc­u­men­ta­tion and scru­ti­neer­ing process and have stream­lined this as part of the im­prove­ments to the Roof this year.”

As the ti­tle spon­sor for the third con­sec­u­tive year, Mo­tul area man­ager for Eastern and South­ern Africa, Mer­cia Jansen, ex­plained: “We are thrilled to be as­so­ci­ated with this pres­ti­gious event again. Our brand is all about in­no­va­tion and we are very ex­cited by the changes that have been put in place for this year’s event, we know com­peti­tors and spec­ta­tors are go­ing to have a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence at the 2018 Mo­tul Roof of Africa.”

“Mo­tul lubri­cants help rid­ers ob­tain peak per­for­mance from their mo­tor­cy­cles – ex­actly what they will need if they are to tri­umph in the 2018 Mo­tul Roof of Africa”, Jansen said.

De­tails of the new route, the doc­u­men­ta­tion and scru­ti­neer­ing process will be re­leased soon.

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