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All-round Zimbabwe stays on course for Super 10s

Dazzling fielding entertains fans even as Scotland falls to second defeat, this time by 11 runs

10 March 2016 19:36 By Roshan Thyagarajan, Nagpur

Zimbabwe defeated Scotland by 11 runs in a Group B tie to make it two wins in two games to improve its chances of making it to the Super 10s of the ICC World T20 2016. The biggest talking point, though, were two spectacular catches rather than Zimbabwe putting up 147 or them bowling Scotland out for 136.

The efforts of Michael Leask and Sikandar Raza on the field got the crowd on its feet and cheering.

Batting first, Zimbabwe’s innings had some drama at the start when Hamilton Masakadza and Vusi Sibanda collided, but that was soon forgotten when Leask drew the spotlight with a blinder. With Hamilton and Sibanda back in the hut, Richmond Mutumbami kicked off a rebuilding process with a series of boundaries. Sure enough, when Mark Watt, the left-arm spinner, tossed the ball up in the ninth over, Mutumbami trusted himself to clear Leask. It seemed like he had put enough muscle on that stroke as the ball slipped through Leask’s palms, but the 25-year-old from Aberdeen whipped his right arm back on an instinct and held on to the catch on the dive inches from the rope.

Leask’s snap, one would have assumed, was the catch of the day. Wrong! Sikandar Raza was the one who finished with that honour.

Wellington Masakadza’s taunting left-arm loop and Tendai Chatara’s pace put Zimbabwe in the driver’s seat as Scotland was reduced to 20 for 2 within the first two overs. Still, Zimbabwe would have been weary because Kyle Coetzer, who made Afghanistan’s bowlers look silly with 40 from 27 balls in Scotland’s first game, was at one end with still some batting to come. Fortunately, Raza threw himself full length at a classy-looking, if uppish, drive from Coetzer in the fourth over. The result was a breathtaking one-handed catch at short cover that should make for a great poster someday.

The catches themselves were the highlights, but as a larger crowd made its way in, Richie Berrington and Preston Mommsen lifted Scotland’s hopes by putting away Zimbabwe’s bowlers, who were beginning to stray. The score went from 95 for 7 to 124 and within 24 runs of the target, but once Berrington fell to Donald Tiripano in the 18th over, the drama ended and with that Scotland suffered its 20th consecutive loss in an ICC event.

As for the drama earlier in the day, Hamilton, the Zimbabwe skipper, nearly knocked Sibanda out cold by running into him. Responding to the call after Sibanda cut a short and wide ball just wide of point, Hamilton started the sprint way outside the pitch. Hamilton’s tendency, which nearly cost him his wicket the first game before a school-boy error of not grounding his bat did him in, culminated in him crashing into Sibanda. A visibly shaken Sibanda managed to make his way back to the crease, but Coetzer’s throw from point went to the wicketkeeper’s end and Matthews Cross was quick to whip the bails with Hamilton nowhere in the picture.

Zimbabwe had lost a crucial wicket but it looked a lot worse for it because Sibanda was on the ground and he was tended to by the medical staff. A wicket and a retired hurt batsman in one delivery would have been Zimbabwe’s worst nightmare in a crucial tie, but to its relief, Sibanda was up with a plaster across his chin to stop the bleeding and in six minutes play resumed. Sibanda’s bravado, however, lasted only so long as he pulled one straight to Matt Machan at deep square leg the next over.

Zimbabwe was in desperate need of some stability and they found it in Sean Williams, who failed in the first game. On a pitch so docile that the bouncers were barely rearing to chest height, Williams took 21 singles, four twos and five fours en route to his third T20I half-century.

Had Zimbabwe possessed a few big hitters and not just Elton Chigumbura, who made 20 from 17, it might have put on a bigger score on the board, but it wouldn’t mind it at the end of the day because it came up with a good enough all-round effort to get one foot into the Super 10.

Please click here to review the match in full in the ICC Match Centre