By Perkins-Tino Bare.
(News of The South)- Zimbabwe beat Afghanistan by 2 runs in a thriller played at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo as they held their nerve to bowl out Afghanistan for 194 after they had set a target of 197 to win the match.
The Chevrons went in to bat first as they lost all three openers losing the wicket of Solomon Mire, Cephas Zhuwawo and Hamilton Masakadza for a meagre 7 runs. This would have put into question the aggressive approach being employed by the coach as the middle order is having to do the dirty work. They once again stepped up to the plate and held the wicket fall following a 98 run wicket stand between Sikandar Raza and Brendan Taylor who has seen a turn of fortunes ever since he was dropped down the batting line up. Sikandar Raza scored 60 runs including 6 fours at a staggering strike rate of 88.23 as it came from just 68 balls. Brendan Taylor failed to reach a century as he fell for 89 with 7 fours and 3 sixes to his name. This was the partnership that steered the Chevrons back on their course to what would be a rather interesting afternoon at Bulawayo.
Graeme Cremer chipped in with 19 but after that there was a series of wickets falling as the classing Chevron domino effect had hit our boys. Malcolm came in at 8th and unfortunately he was the last batsman who managed to put some runs on the board as he had 3 runs. The rest of the lot that is Chatara and Vitori could only survive for 2 balls before being bowled out for a duck whilst Muzarabani was bowled first ball.
With a target of 197 to protect hit was then up to our boys to prove their worth with the ball as Vitori and Chatara led the seam attack on the day. Afghanistan looked well on their course to yet another victory over the Chevrons as they were on 156-4 in the 33rd over needing just 41 runs to win from 20 overs with 6 wickets in hand. I bet even at this moment some Sharjah nightmares were going through the head of most of the boys on the pitch. But Raza, was having none of it as he went on to grab 3 wickets conceding 40 runs and bowling 1 maiden. Brian Muzarabani was shy of a fifer as he grabbed 4 wickets conceding 47 runs in his allotted 10 overs and soon Afghanistan was on 163-6. In the 36th over before they were hanging on to their last wicket on 177-9 with 9 overs of cricket still to be played for the Chevrons to grab that all important last wicket. It was all left to Brian Vitori to then end it all in last over with 3 balls left to play in the match as Afghanistan were bowled out for 194.
“We knew we had a score on the board,” Cremer said in a post match interview. “In competitions like this, it doesn’t matter how small the target is, if you have runs on the board there’s always that pressure. “It’s supposed to get tense, we’re playing for our countries – both teams – and it has to get tense,” said Raza who was the man of the match. “We say that the team that panics first will lose. We just kept our composure. In that last over we thought ‘we’re right into it, one mistake or one bad shot ‘ Let’s just drag it into the last over, and if they panic they’ll lose” added Raza in a post-match interview.
The Chevrons are now second to Scotland in their group with two wins each as they both sit on 4 points with Scotland enjoying a superior net run rate. Rasa thanked the fans who filled up the Queens Sports Club as they rushed onto the field after the match, “They played a huge role today,” Raza said, “When my head was dropping, when Nabi’s dropped catch was ringing in my head, and I wasn’t getting a breakthrough and there were a few edges that dropped short or went to the boundary, the fans never let me drop my head. And not just me, everyone who went to the ropes today, the fans were cheering them on. They were the real 12th man today.” Raaza was also thankful to Cremer who also played a vitat role as captain in encouraging the team to then go on and get that breakthrough. The Chevrons next play Hong Kong on Saturday at the same venue.
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