Batsman smashes 21-ball fifty in big win over UAE to boost net run-rate in tight Group B qualification race
Before the start of its innings against the United Arab Emirates on Friday (March 21), Zimbabwe knew it had to chase down 117 in 15.4 overs or less to take its net run-rate past Ireland.
Led by Elton Chigumbura’s explosive, unbeaten 53 which came off just 21 balls, it reached the target in just 13.4 overs. The five-wicket win in its last Group B match at the Sylhet Divisional Stadium took Zimbabwe to the top of the table for now.
Before Chigumbura’s show, Shadeep Silva and Manjula Guruge, both of whom were drafted into the UAE side for this game, bowled with discipline to send Zimbabwe’s top order crashing.
Trying to hit over the infield, Hamilton Masakadza missed the line of a Guruge delivery and was bowled. Brendan Taylor tried to up the ante with two fours and a six but skied one and Shaiman Anwar ran back from mid-on to take a smart catch. Sean Williams was caught and bowled off Guruge, and then Ahmed Raza had Sikandar Raza caught by a sliding Kamran Shahzad at extra cover.
With the score reading 34 for 4, Vusi Sibanda and Chigumbura got together to change the texture of the game with a stand of 29 runs in just 14 balls. Their awareness that shots had to be played despite Zimbabwe being on the backfoot meant that they took risks, and it paid off. Their counterattacking approach caught UAE off guard.
Khurram Khan brought himself on in the 10th over to have Sibanda caught and bowled, but he then dropped an easy catch off Chigumbura at cover when the batsman was on 34. It proved to be costly as Chigumbura, in company of Timycen Maruma, ensured that Zimbabwe got past the target with enough to spare. If Ireland is now defeated, Zimbabwe will progress through to the Super 10 on superior net run-rate.
UAE looked dispirited in the face of the onslaught. Towards the end, Chigumbura owned the show and fittingly hit a huge straight six to bring up his half-century and take Zimbabwe past the line.
That UAE reached 116 was because of a 58-run stand between Khurram and Swapnil Patil for the third wicket, on either side of which, wickets fell regularly.
Put into bat, UAE lost two wickets in the second over of the game. Anwar edged a delivery from Tendai Chatara that moved away a bit to give Taylor an easy catch behind the stumps. Two balls later, Faizan Asif dabbed a delivery to cover but was slow to take off and Sikandar Raza showed good presence of mind to run close to the pitch before breaking the stumps with an underarm throw.
Khurram and Patil played a few attractive shots in their partnership. Patil was particularly severe on Tinashe Panyangara, whom he hit for three boundaries in one over. However, the introduction of Williams and his left-arm spin put Zimbabwe back on track.
Going for one shot too many, Khurram swept one delivery on the middle stump only to see Chigumbura pulling off a smart low catch at fine leg. A run later, Raza trapped Patil in front of the wicket and after that the UAE innings fell apart.
Zimbabwe was impressive with its fielding and no piece of action captured the display better than the manner in which Chatara and Taylor combined to run out Rohan Mustafa. Mustafa tried to sweep Williams and set off for a run. While the umpire was not convinced with the lbw appeal, Chatara threw the ball from short fine-leg to Taylor, who broke the stumps in a jiffy.
Spin proved to be UAE’s Achilles heel as Williams and Raza picked up five wickets between them, UAE ending its campaign with three defeats in as many matches.