Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Zimbabwe Cricket: OBITUARY – Heath Streak a true legend of the game

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Photo Credit: Zimbabwe Cricket

Heath Streak was born in Bulawayo on 16 March 1974 and grew up a country boy on the family farm near Nyathi in Matabeleland, the son of the former Zimbabwe pace bowler Denis Streak.

He was always a man of the people, growing up speaking Ndebele as well as he spoke English, and never forgot his background.

His cricket ability was always apparent as a pace bowler who could bat, and after only one first-class match he was selected for Zimbabwe’s tour of England in 1993, and then played his first Test matches in Pakistan later that year, still aged only 19.

He was a hero of Zimbabwe’s first-ever Test match victory, over Pakistan at Harare Sports Club in 1994/95, taking nine wickets in the match.

For most of his career, with varying degrees of support, he was the spearhead of Zimbabwe’s bowling, and in his 65 Test matches he took 216 wickets – no other bowler has yet taken 100 – for an average of 28.14, with best figures of six for 73 in his final Test match against India in Harare in 2005/06.

As a bowler he bowled at a good fast-medium pace with great stamina and accuracy, especially moving the ball away from the bat.

He always played in a good sporting spirit and never relied on intimidation for his wickets.

His batting also developed: he scored a Test century – 127 not out – against the West Indies in Harare in 2003/04 and made a total of 1 990 runs at an average of 22.35.

A powerful straight hitter, there is no doubt he would have been a leading batter at Test level had Zimbabwe not needed him to concentrate mostly on his outstanding bowling.

He only just failed to record a rare Test match double of 2 000 runs and 200 wickets, but this he achieved in his 187-match one-day international career – 2 901 runs for Zimbabwe at 28.44 and 237 wickets at 29.81.

He also captained his country between 2000 and 2004.

After retiring from Zimbabwe cricket in 2006, he played two seasons for the English county Warwickshire and also featured for Hampshire in 1995.

He later became an excellent coach, taking charge of the national team between 2016 and 2018.

He also founded the Heath Streak Cricket Academy in Bulawayo in 2014.

At the time of his death, he was serving an eight-year ban from cricket imposed in 2021 after he admitted to several breaches of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Code.

Although he had accepted the sanction, he denied the match fixing claims levelled against him.

Streak passed on at the age of 49 on Sunday, 3 September 2023, after losing his battle with colon and liver cancer in the early hours of this Sunday.

He will always be remembered as one of Zimbabwe’s greatest cricketers.

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