Zim win nail-biter

Phew!!!

The above expression sums up the roller coaster of emotion that characterised the cliff-hanger ICC World Cup Qualifier encounter in which Zimbabwe edged rivals Afghanistan by two runs to go two games up at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo yesterday.

All-rounder Sikandar Raza won himself a second player of the match accolade for the second time in a roll after leading the rout with the bat (60 runs) being only second best to seasoned campaigner Brendan Taylor who top scored with 89 from 88 balls.

Raza came back to haunt the Afghanistan batsmen with three wickets for 40 runs from 10 overs getting able support from rising star Blessing Muzarabani who was the pick of the bowlers with four wickets for 47 runs from his 10-over spell.

The 21-year-old was part of the squad that was humiliated 4-1 by Afghanistan in an ODI series played in the United Arab Emirates but no amount of collateral damage seemed to hold back his fighting spirit.

And with a little bit of a favourable over-management in which team, captain Graeme Cremer made him bowl 10 straight overs, Muzarabani with at least an over or two left in the dying stages of yesterday’s match, he could have wrapped up the match earlier than deep into the last over as the team did.

The same applies for Raza and Cremer who all exhausted their overs early in the match leaving the two-man seam attack of Tendai Chatara and Brian Vitori to do the duty which in all fairness appeared to be a daunting task.

It was, however, Vitori who had the onus to wipe off Afghanistan’s last wicket of Shapoor Zadran whom he had caught behind the wicket by wicketkeeper Taylor for a 26-ball seven runs triggering wild celebrations which saw local fans invading the pitch and Zimbabwe Cricket are sure to be sanctioned by ICC.

No one cares much about that now only the memorable, hard fought victory counts. Zimbabwe are however, not new to winning such nail-biting encounters and just recently in the Tri-Nation series in Bangladesh the locals emerged 12-run victors over Sri Lanka.

In 2011 at the same venue, Zimbabwe beat New Zealand by one wicket with a ball remaining in that third ODI encounter where they chased down 328 runs, the star of that match being Malcolm Waller who ended unbeaten on 99 runs.

Ed Rainsford hit Kevin ‘O Brien for a maximum at Harare Sports Club against Ireland in 2010 with the last ball of the match with only a single run required while Taylor smacked Bangladesh’s Mashrafe Mortaza for six also on the last ball of the match at Harare Sports Club in 2006 with Zimbabwe needing five runs to win.

Yesterday, Zimbabwe skipper Cremer elected to bat after winning the toss and the result does not really show how deep in trouble the hosts found themselves in after initially going three wickets down for 17 runs after seven overs with openers Cephas Zhuwao (0), Solomon Mire (4) and number three batsman Hamilton Masakadza (3) all leaking their wounds back on the pavilion.

Taylor and Raza with the help of Cremer (19 not out) then helped rebuild the innings and make the score card look a little bit respectable with a combined team effort of 196 runs all out inside 43 overs.

With the total looking seemingly an easy one Afghanistan were in a rush but very cautious to wrap it up and claim their first set of points with Rahmat Shah (69) and Mohammad Nabi (51) before hurricane Raza and typhoon Muzarabani came into effect destabilising Afghanistan’s chase.

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