Cricket: The minnows' potential match-winners

By David Leggat

They won't win the World Cup, but they have caught the eye. David Leggat identifies five players from the lesser lights who would not be out of place among the major nations at the tournament

Tatenda Taibu (Zimbabwe)

Taibu's 98 against Canada on Monday night helped Zimbabwe to an easy win. Next up: New Zealand tonight.

Taibu can play. He was plucked from high school in Harare to tour the West Indies in 1999-2000 and was earmarked as the successor to current England coach Andy Flower.

He is test cricket's youngest captain, leading his country for the first time against Sri Lanka at 20 years 358 days in 2004 before quitting for a year and leaving home, having fallen out with and received threats from influential, unsavoury Zimbabwean cricket officials.

He stands only 1.65m but his numbers are respectable. He averaged 29.6 from 24 tests; 29.46 from 132 ODIs, with two hundreds against combative South African attacks; and 27.0 from 13 T20s.

Taibu shared a 181-run third wicket stand against Canada with Craig Ervine to revive a sagging innings from seven for two.

There are signs of growth and improvement after a desperately barren period for Zimbabwe, who had a solidly competitive side for much of the 1990s.

Taibu, now 27, is a key to that revival.

Kevin O'Brien (Ireland)

The purple "Ginga", Ireland's latest sporting hero among a team of sportsmen destined for a place in the Irish pantheon.

His 50-ball century which steered Ireland to a famous, record three-wicket win over England in Bangladesh yesterday ensures him - them - a place of honour at the country's top table.

But O'Brien, a 26-year-old Dubliner, whose older brother Niall is Ireland's wicketkeeper, has a bit of history for this sort of thing. At the world T20 championship in England two years ago, his thumping unbeaten 39 off 17 balls set up Ireland's win over Bangladesh.

He averages 35.55 over his two World Cup appearances, 36.24 from his 54 ODIs dating back to 2006, and that includes two 100s and seven 50s.

As he showed yesterday, O'Brien gives the ball a fearful clump. He had a spell at Nottinghamshire in the English county championship two years ago and spent time in the Middlesex second XI.

But yesterday could be a career-defining innings for O'Brien. Might even an Indian Premier League deal be in the pipeline? On such innings, future prospects can change.

Ryan ten Doeschate (Netherlands)

You could call him a global cricketer, for the Port Elizabeth-born allrounder has plied his trade for Essex, Canterbury, Tasmania, Western Province and Mashonaland in Zimbabwe.

Ten Doeschate was outstanding value for Canterbury in this season's HRV Cup, finishing second in runmaking with 284 at 40.57 and in the top bowling bracket with 12 at 17.66 each.

In 29 ODIs he's averaging a whopping 68 with the bat; and has 51 wickets at a highly respectable 22.13.

He bowls handy medium pace, but it's with the bat that he's made a strong impression at the World Cup.

His 119 off only 110 balls against England carried the Netherlands to 292 for six in their opening group B game.

It opened the real prospect of a massive boilover in Nagpur. Sadly the Dutch bowling was not up to the mark but the Dutch were immediately fingered as a team to be wary of.

The West Indies did them like a dinner; they played South Africa overnight.

But ten Doeschate's presence means they are not without hope when they play Bangladesh and Ireland later in the programme.

Ray Price (Zimbabwe)

Expect the left arm spinner and nephew of golfing great Nick Price to open the bowling against New Zealand tonight.

This is his first World Cup. He missed the past two for various reasons.

Price's early years were blighted by ill-health, including deafness brought on by meningitis.

But he's a scrapper and gradually made his way to prominence in Zimbabwean cricket to the extent that he has sat among the International Cricket Council's top three ODI bowlers.

He is now 34 and this might be his only World Cup but he won't die wondering. Not afraid to exchange opinions with opposing batsmen, Price has been described as having a fast bowler's mentality in a spinner's body.

In 85 ODIs, he's taken 84 wickets at a fine economy rate of 3.86 per over; 18 tests have yielded 69 wickets.

He spent four seasons with Worcestershire in English cricket, even talked of trying to qualify for England, before returning to Zimbabwe as the situation for the country's cricketers improved.

He's no slouch and with his flat delivery style and combative demeanour, Price is one of the planks in Zimbabwe's improving fortunes.

George Dockrell (Ireland)

The 18-year-old hails from Dublin. From the moment the teenager begins his economic, easy runup with a hop and skip, he looks the part.

He's taken 23 wickets at 27.08 apiece in his 18 ODIs, which began against the West Indies last year. Dockrell delivers a nagging length and clearly knows what he's about. His hero is apparently Dan Vettori, whose fine career began at the same age 14 years ago.

Dockrell, who plays club cricket for Leinster, took two for 23 from 10 tidy overs against Bangladesh last weekend, a game the Irish should have won.

At last year's world T20, Dockrell caught the eye. He pocketed three for 16 off four overs against the West Indies in Guyana; then his four overs for 19 against England restricted them to 120. Ireland had a royal chance to win that contest too, before the rain arrived.

In his seven T20s, Dockrell's taken 12 wickets at just 11 apiece, with a terrific economy rate of 5.38 per over. That rate drops to 4.18 in ODIs.

His early promise hasn't gone unnoticed across the Irish Sea; Somerset snapped him up on a two-year deal last July.

Don't be surprised if England come sniffing about. Indeed, Dockrell has already acknowledged that switching allegiance may be in his future.

"Everyone wants to play test cricket," said Dockrell. "It would be one of the things that may come if you went to play for England. At the moment I'm working hard on doing well in the World Cup for Ireland."

- NZ Herald

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