Seam bowler Christopher Mpofu grabbed three crucial wickets to help Zimbabwe upstage Bangladesh by nine runs in a nail-biting opening Micromax One Cup cricket encounter at the Sher-e- Bangla National Stadium Wednesday.
Mpofu was the pick of the Zimbabwean bowlers grabbing three wickets for just 25 runs in nine overs on a flat wicket which earned him the Man of the Match award. Zimbabwe bowled out the hosts for 200 runs in 49 overs defending what had seemed like a paltry 209 runs in 49 overs after Bangladesh won the toss and elected to field on a spin-friendly wicket.
The win helped Zimbabwe go 1-0 up in the five-match series and silenced the over 10 000 home fans who were expecting nothing short of victory following their success over New Zealand recently.
Zimbabwe were just impressive in all departments; particulary in the field where they forced four runouts in a committed display that even won the admiration of the shell-shocked locals.
Spinners Prosper Utseya and Raymond Price utilised the pitch conditions to maximum effect by taking a wicket apiece as Zimbabwe showed once again that they are coming of age.
Earlier young Regis Chakabva had justified his inclusion in the side with Zimbabwe’s top score of 45 runs off 85 balls on a wicket where he had to work overtime for his runs against the marauding spinners.
Chakabva, who was playing in only his second match for the national team, showed a lot of composure under pressure to rescue Zimbabwe’s innings from what would have been a potentially dangerous situation.
Together with left-hander Craig Ervine (41), they settled for the quick singles against the left-arm spinners, sharing a fifth wicket partnership of 65 runs.
Openers Chamunorwa Chibhabha (24) and Brendan Taylor (27) had set the platform for a decent score with a first wicket partnership of 53 runs inside 11 overs before they were both dismissed by left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak.
The introduction of Razzak threatened to change the complexion of the game as he claimed four wickets for 41 runs in 10 overs after also removing skipper Elton Chigumbura in his first four overs.
However, former skipper Utseya, who seems to be improving his batting, made the third highest score of 21 runs off 28 balls — the third highest score for Zimbabwe batting at number eight to help Zimbabwe get past 200 runs.
Bangladesh skipper Shakibul Al Hasan must have thought 209 was an easily reachable target when the hard-hitting Tain Aqbal and Imrul Kayes reached a first wicket partnership of 44 runs.
However, Mpofu got the first breakthrough after trapping Aqbal lbw for 23 runs as Zimbabwe had to wait until the 10th over for the first breakthrough.
Mpofu was the only seamer to grab wickets in yesterday’s match and he also starred at the turning point of the match when he had the dangerous Hasan (63) caught by Keegan Meth with two overs left.
With Hasan’s departure from the field, so went any hopes of a Bangladesh victory as they never recovered from it.