Zimbabwe 196 (Taylor 89, Raza 60, Rashid 3-38, Mujeeb 3-49) beat Afghanistan 194 (Shah 69, Nabi 51, Muzarabani 4-47, Raza 3-40) by 2 runs
THERE were many enduring moments from this nerve wrecking spectacle. Seeing the stumps flying from Brian Vitori’s delivery as Zimbabwe claimed their final and match winning wicket and the players scattered all over the park not knowing how to celebrate as well as Sikandar Raza Butt celebrating as if he was in a football match.
BY KEVIN MAPASURE IN BULAWAYO
The enduring sounds included the thunder clap as Vitori ran in to bowl with Zimbabwe in search of the final wicket, and the rapture when victory was delivered.
In the end, it was celebrations all over in a match that at its half way stage, few if at all any barely believed this is how things would end.
What a match, what a win and what a boost for Zimbabwe after they recorded a two-run win over Afghanistan in Group B of the International Cricket Council World Cup qualifier.
And even though they slipped to second on the table after Scotland beat Hong Kong at Bulawayo Athletic Club only due to an inferior run rate, they will not care at this stage.
This was probably the most nerve wrecking and heart hurrying match the Zimbabwean fans have endured, and enjoyed.
After putting up a below par score of 197 all out, Zimbabwe needed heroes with the ball and both seam and spin played their part.
The game changing moment came probably in the 37th over, where, man of the match, Raza claimed three important scalps.
It was the over that triggered everything before Blessing Muzarabani who already had two wickets claimed two more while Vitori took the last that triggered all the chaos as the fans ignored pleas not to invade the field to swarm their heroes.
The celebrations told the story of how important this win was, as it sets Zimbabwe closer to the Super Six stage and probably qualification to the finals too, but it also said something about how the home side claimed victory from the jaws of defeat and how hope had been lost after the first innings.
Having put up such a low score on a day ball dominated bat after winning the toss, Zimbabwe needed a good start with the ball and they got that when Vitori got the breakthrough early trapping Inhsanullah Jamat (1) leg before with just 16 runs on the board.
Tendai Chatara followed that up with a wicket before Muzarabani joined in the party to leave Afghanistan on 58 for 3, although they were still fairly comfortable.
To their credit and even though they didn’t get wickets in the overs that followed, Zimbabwe kept Afghanistan’s run rate in check up until the crucial Raza over.
First, he had Mohammad Nabi (51) caught behind, before he induced a drive off Sharafuddin Ashraf with Hamilton Masakadza completing a brilliant catch and capping it all by castling skipper Rashid Khan.
Suddenly everything had swung in Zimbabwe’s favour at 173 for 7. Muzarabani then took out Najibullah Radran and Mujeeb Ur Rahman with only four runs being added.
What followed that were nail-bitting moments as Dawlat Zadran and Shapoor Zadran stood firm for 8,1 overs until the latter capitulated and his furniture was rearranged by Vitori to spark wild scenes.
During those eight overs, at times, it looked like it would not happen. They went into the final over needing five runs, but they were suffocated by Vitori’s brilliant dearth bowling.
This all after Zimbabwe had made a mess of their own batting on a day they needed nothing short of win considering the format of this tournament, where points against Group rivals will count in the Super Six stage.
Zimbabwe’s openers fell cheaply with Cephas Zhuwao going out for a golden duck, while Solomon Mire followed him to the hut with only four runs having been added.
It soon became 17 for 3 when Hamilton Masakadza trudged back. It didn’t get any better, as Craig Ervine was dismissed for a 50-ball 13 to leave Taylor (89)and Raza (60) in the middle.
This is where the money is these days and a lot was expected from them and they delivered to some extent putting up a 121 run fifth wicket stand.
Taylor had the fortune of being afforded a second life afters he was dropped on six and he hit seven boundaries, while three cleared it for his total, where he used 88 balls.
Raza had six fours and one six.
There was little else, with Zimbabwe losing the last five wickets for just 11 runs. In these conditions even 250 would have been a bit disappointing but Zimbabwe still managed to make a bigger mess of it.
Once the Taylor, Raza combination was broken, Zimbabwe capitulated and the last five wickets fell for just 33 runs as Zimbabwe staggered to their total.
Zimbabwe had problems facing spin, as Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan shared six wickets equally.