Zimbabwe's qualifying campaign may have ended in heartbreak – as the hosts suffered a shock defeat to UAE in their final Super Sixes match to miss out on a place at the main event next year – but the announcement that Sikandar Raza, their box-office all-rounder, has been selected as the Player of the Tournament at least provided some consolation.
The 31-year-old spoke frankly after Zimbabwe's exit, apologising to supporters via Twitter after the defeat to UAE, but in truth he had nothing to be sorry for after a series of superlative performances.
Raza struck 319 runs in all, a tally only bettered by his teammate Brendon Taylor, and boasted a strike rate of 109; while his haul of 15 wickets was the joint fifth-highest in the tournament. He was also a livewire in the field, with his all-round performances making him a worthy winner of the accolade.
He started the competition as he meant to continue, smashing a stunning 123 from 66 balls against Nepal – an innings that contained seven fours and nine sixes – before taking 3/48 with his off-spin to claim the Player of the Match award in a 116-run victory.
He then took three-wicket hauls in each of his next two games, against Afghanistan and Hong Kong, and hit 60 versus the former in another Player of the Match display.
One of the toughest pill to swallow for all of us together and the tears we shed yesterday describes the pain we all felt for everyone and for those who supported us— Sikandar Raza (@SRazaB24) March 23, 2018
Our fans and families and friends deserved better and all I can say is that
We are truly very sorry!!!!!!
Raza struck his third 50-plus score of the competition – 69* off 83 balls – in a comprehensive win over Ireland, scooping the Player of the Match award yet again, and impressed in a losing cause in the defeat to UAE, taking another three-wicket haul and hitting a quick-fire 34 from 26 deliveries, taking his six count for the tournament to 14 with an almighty blow which landed on the roof of Harare Sports Club.
For now the disappointment at missing out on a World Cup spot will outweigh the satisfaction at being named the outstanding individual at the tournament. But Raza can look back with immense pride on his personal contributions that thrilled the home crowd in Zimbabwe.