Barbados’ woes at the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England, continued today when they were soundly beaten 66-41 by newcomers Zimbabwe. It was an encounter that many favoured the Bajan Gems to win, but instead they suffered their fourth loss on the trot at the tournament.
It was the exceptional shooting performance of Pauline Jani that ensured Zimbabwe’s fine dream debut at the World Cup level continued.
Jani was in fine form in front of goal, as an injury-ravaged Barbados tried their best to keep in contention with southern African nation.
Zimbabwe, also carrying the moniker Gems, had won the hearts of many neutrals with their performances in the competition so far, and came into the game with the possibility of earning a top-six finish at their first ever World Cup still alive.
By contrast, Barbados had just a solitary win to their name, picked up in their opening fixture of the tournament against Singapore.
This was the first ever World Cup meeting between the teams and it was the Barbadians who made the quickest start, racing into a 4-1 lead early on.
Both sets of shooters were finding the target with apparent ease, and mid-court pressure allowed Zimbabwe – again roared on by their passionate band of supporters – to get back into the game, eventually levelling at 7-7.
The shooters on both sides all had unblemished records as the Zimbabwe Gems edged ahead, but it was the strong, composed presence of Jani at goal shooter for Zimbabwe who was becoming increasingly dominant.
Her accuracy, combined with fantastic work by her team-mates in their defensive third, allowed Zimbabwe to push out to 12-8 before Sheniqua Thomas recorded the first missed attempt of the match after ten minutes.
Mistakes were beginning to creep into the Barbadian play, with too many passes being over-thrown and disappearing off the back of the court. Jani, who ended the quarter at 100 per cent, ensured they were punished as the first 15 minutes finished 17-11 to the Zimbabweans.
The gap remained at six through the opening stages of a scrappy second quarter, but it wasn’t long before Jani was pushing Zimbabwe forward again.
The lead was 23-14 when Zimbabwe suffered an injury blow. Perpetua Siyachitema suffered a heavy fall and went off to be replaced by Nadizivei Madzikangwa, who came on to win her 50th international cap.
The change momentarily threw the Zimbabwe Gems, as Ursula Ndlovu registered their first missed attempt of the match. Jani’s still faultless shooting performance was being matched by the display of her teammates across the court, though, and the Zimbabweans went in at half time 33-19 up. For the Barbados Gems it was the outstanding Shonica Wharton who posed the greatest offensive threat ending the game with 28 goals from 30 attempts but she was often starved of service from her teammates. While Zimbabwe made 74 attempts at goal, Barbados only had 46.
The third quarter was marred by an injury to Barbados centre Rieah Holder, who went down heavily and left the arena via a wheelchair. She was replaced by Amanda Knight, and though she and her teammates ensured the closest quarter of the match, they still couldn’t stop the service to Jani ending in the inevitable consequence of further Zimbabwean goals. The African Gems ended the quarter having boosted their lead slightly to 48-32.
If Barbados suspected their luck was out, that suspicion would have grown during the final quarter, as Tonisha Rock-Yaw and the excellent Shonette Azore-Bruce collided with each other trying to intercept a pass into the goal third, leading to Azore-Bruce also going off injured.
Zimbabwe took full advantage of their opponents’ misfortune to extend their lead throughout the final quarter, chalking up the easy win. Jani ended with 51 goals from her 53 attempts.
The Zimbabwe Gems are now level with Malawi on four points, and play their African rivals in their final Group F game on Thursday. Barbados will also be in action on Thursday when they take on Ireland. (NWC/WG)