Zimbabwe breeze past Bangladesh
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ZIMBABWE struck the first blow in the Micromax One Day International cricket showdown against Bangladesh, with an inspired team performance in the field, and superb bowling spells by paceman Chris Mpofu and veteran spinner Ray Price, as they heroically defended a modest total to win by nine runs at the Shere Bangla National Cricket Stadium yesterday.
A tight and exciting game, which twisted and turned on a number of occasions, finally ended in the Zimbabweans’ favour as the bubbly visitors got due reward for their never-say-die spirit and a magnificent fielding display that ripped the heart out of this Bangladesh team and silenced Dhaka and large parts of this nation of 160 million people.
The pre-match talk had been all to do with Bangladesh after their sensational 4-0 whitewash of New Zealand in the last ODI series played here and such was the arrogance among the hosts that you got a feeling this wasn’t about the Bengal Tigers winning but certainly about how much they would win a contest dismissed as one-sided.
But even the experts were left to curse their flawed predictions as a spirited Zimbabwe, playing as a unit, somehow found the energy and the discipline to turn it all around, after having scored a modest 209 having lost the toss and being sent to bat to squeeze life out of the Tigers who eventually fell nine runs short of the target.
It was a nailbiting contest, a superb advertisement of the beauty of one day international cricket, and Zimbabwe finally wrapped up the match with the last ball of the 49th over when tailender Shafiul Islam’s punch to the midwicket area was snapped by Brendon Taylor whose throw was gathered by Keegan Meth to effect the runout that ended the contest.
The fall of that wicket triggered wild celebrations among the Zimbabwean players, who celebrated as if they had fast-forwarded the events to next year and won the World Cup which will be played on this Indian subcontinent, but — after an improved show that yielded no rewards in South Africa — you could only forgive Elton Chigumbura and his men for plunging into delirium.
“It’s a big and positive result for the team and it will help to boost our morale because it shows that we can win games,” said Chigumbura.
“It gives us confidence ahead of the next games and there is obviously need for an improvement in our batting and we know that we can do better.”
Along the way, in their battle to harass Bangladesh and stop them from reaching the modest target, the Zimbabweans encountered the stiff resistance of a stubborn Shakib al Hasan, the Tigers’ captain who is also the golden boy in the country, and — for a certain period — it appeared like the star would take his pack of Tigers home.
Shakib top-scored with a 63 and appeared very much in control, urged on by the crowd, with some fine shots including three boundaries off a single over by Keith Dabengwa in the 39th over, which cheered the spirits of the locals on a beautiful day — and appeared to swing the initiative in the direction of the Tigers.
He featured in a big stand of 54 runs for the seventh wicket, after the Zimbabweans had reduced Bangladesh to 115-6 and pinned them on the ropes, with Mahmudulla and he was, as expected, the dominant figure with a disciplined innings that gave the hosts hope as long as he was at the crease.
He also shared a crucial 18-run partnership for the eighth wicket with Mashrafe Mortaza but once the latter was run out, after a terrible mix-up and Shakib then scooped a delivery from Mpofu over short fine leg into the grateful hands of Meth, the hosts probably knew that there would be no coming back.
Mpofu, who continues to shine, took 3-25 in a controlled spell in which he also trapped opener Tamim Iqbal for 23, who was unlucky to be given out lbw to a ball that pitched outside leg, and then lured Mahmudulla to loft one to long off where he was taken by Chamu Chibhabha.
The lanky paceman was duly named man-of-the-match for his brilliant display on a pitch that was meant to suit the spinners.
But this was by no means a one-man show and Zimbabwe was simply brilliant in the field, in which they worked as a unit, and the fact that they managed four dismissals through run-outs spoke volumes of the quality of their work in the field.
How it had all looked so different from Zimbabwe at the halfway stage of this match.
Having lost the toss, they were duly sent in to bat and Taylor and Chibhabha negotiated the first overs and put 53 for the first wicket before the latter fell when he was beaten by the flight of a Abdur Razzak’s ball and was well bowled before Taylor followed, for 27, after being lured off his crease, missing the contact and then being stumped.
Regis Chakabva, who came in at number three, played with the composure of a veteran — even though he was just playing his second ODI for his country, and anchored and paced the innings with some sensible shots and the highlight was his fifth wicket partnership of 65 runs, the highest of the match, with Craig Ervine.
The only disappointment was that Chakabva eventually fell, caught and bowled by Mahmudullah for 45, just at the time when his team was hoping for him to exploit the power play.
Captain Chigumbura didn’t last long, dragging one to his stumps after scoring only seven — his dismissal coming just a ball after he had been given a life while Tatenda Taibu, whose superb performance in the field was a major highlight of this victory, doubled his skipper’s score before being snapped by Junaid Siddique at backward point off the bowling of Suhrawadi Shuvo.
Ervine made 41, the second highest score, before he holed out to longon, the same area where Utseya perished, after a useful 21.
Zimbabwe’s resistance finally ended, with the last ball of the penultimate over, when Mpofu was run out after picking a fielder at short fine leg and finding himself in no-man’s land and unable to beat the rush to get home.
At this point Bangladesh believed that this was their game but the Zimbabweans came storming back, with an excellent team performance, which helped them defend their total.
Chigumbura said he never lost hope, from the first ball that they bowled, that his team had the capacity to defend their total.