The Sunday Mail
THOSE that were quick to cast aspersions on Zimbabwe’s qualification for the World T20 World Cup would probably have to think again.
The Chevrons yesterday continued with their new-found mojo and beat Bangladesh by 17 runs in the first of three T20 internationals against the Asians at Harare Sports Club yesterday.
It was the Chevrons’ sixth straight T20 International win, a record for the home side and, much like during the qualifiers, Sikandar Raza proved to be the difference.
He once again showed his experience and class as his half-century and wicket formed the backbone of Zimbabwe’s victory.
Together with a young Wesley Madhevere, the two shared a 91-run, fourth-wicket partnership that helped garner what turned out to be a mammoth total for the visitors
After having won the toss, Zimbabwe elected to bat and went on to post 205 for the loss of three during their allotted 20 overs.
It was not the most clinical of innings as the hosts made a slow start, losing their first wicket in the first three overs.
Regis Chakabva was caught out at mid-wicket by Najmul Hossain Shanto off a Mustafizur Rahman delivery for eight runs.
Madhevere then stepped in and soon stabilised the innings, sharing a second-wicket partnership of 28 runs off 21 balls with Craig Ervine (21), and then another 56-run third-wicket partnership with Sean Williams (33).
With a projected score of 159 runs at that point, Zimbabwe went on to add 131 runs during the last 10 overs.
And it was the 91-run stand between Madhevere and Raza that anchored this big push that culminated in Zimbabwe posting a defendable 205 for three.
Madhevere, who put up a fine performance on the day, hit the seventh half-century of his career and finished with 67 runs off 46 balls.
Raza, on the other end, made 65 off 26 deliveries.
The only blemish of their fine knock came in the 19th over when Madhevere was forced to retire after suffering cramps.
With a target of 206 runs to chase, Bangladesh had an early scare to their innings as they lost their first wicket in the second over.
Munim Shahria was caught by Tanaka Chivanga off a Wellington Masakadza delivery.
After this, the visitors seemed to settle, with skipper Nurul Hasan putting up quite the fight.
Unfortunately, it was all in vain as Bangladesh made 188 for six, and Hasan’s unbeaten 42 off 26 balls ensured he top scored for the visitors.
Luke Jongwe was the pick of the bowlers as he took two wickets for 34 runs during his four overs, while Richard Ngarava, Raza and Wellington Masakadza finished with a wicket apiece.
For his efforts with bat and ball, Raza was named the Player of the Match.
He is confident Zimbabwe will continue with their winning form.
“The win feels very humbling,” said Raza.
“The good thing is that we have started well, and we have a game tomorrow (today), so we have to put this win behind us.
“We have to turn up with the right attitude and mentality,” said Raza.
The Zimbabwe all-rounder was full of praise for Chevrons head coach Dave Houghton and batting coach Lance Klusener.
“We have certainly turned the corner in mentality and in our approach to the game,” he said.
“Dave Houghton has brought those keys that are going to unlock some of our abilities that were hidden away from us for a long time.
“If you remember when Zulu (Klusener) was with us, the team was batting very well.
“Zulu has come back and he has brought back that same mentality, and he has brought even more experience because he has been doing a lot of globe-trotting in different cricket leagues.
“He has brought a lot of knowledge and experience to the team,” said Raza.
Despite finding themselves trailing in the series, Bangladesh skipper Nurul Hasan believes his team still stands a chance of claiming the series.
“The wicket was very good,” he said.
“If we had managed to concede 15 runs less, it could have been a different game altogether.
“We will have to improve a few things from this match and come back stronger.
“The series is still on,” said Hassan.
The two teams will meet today for the second T20, before wrapping up the series on Tuesday.
Attention will then shift to the One-Day International arena.