BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ZIMBABWE Cricket team fast bowler Blessing Muzarabani’s match-winning performance in the Chevrons’ famous win against Pakistan in November last year has been rated the 2020 Men’s One Day International Bowling Performance of the Year by the well-respected cricket news website ESPNcricinfo.
ESPNcricinfo which is the leading sports news website exclusively for the game of cricket has since 2007 held its own awards to recognise the best individual batting and bowling performances in cricket over the calendar year.
The ESPNcricinfo Awards are adjudicated by an independent jury of former cricketers, commentators, and the website’s senior writers.
Previous winners include legendary figures in the game such as Dale Steyn, Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Shahid Afridi and Kumar Sangakkara.
Zimbabwe fast-bowler Muzarabani has become the first Zimbabwean to be recognised after enjoying a successful return to international cricket following a stint at English county cricket side Northamptonshire.
Barely a few weeks after bouncing back to the Zimbabwe side, Muzarabani underlined his importance in the Chevrons side after picking up five wickets for 49 runs in 10 overs in the third ODI against Pakistan in Rawalpindi in what stands out as his best bowling performance in ODIs.
The two teams were tied and the match headed for the Super Over for a winner to emerge.
In the end Zimbabwe needed Muzarabani’s magic once again as the eventual man-of-the-match dismissed Iftikhar Ahmed and Khushdil Shah for two runs from four balls in the super over which Zimbabwe scored off just three balls without any loss to record a historic win.
The famous win which atoned for a difficult year which was almost completely ruined by the COVID-19 pandemic, also helped Zimbabwe gain 10 points on the International Cricket Council (ICC) Super League, which is the pathway for the 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup qualification.
ESPNcricinfo described Muzarabani as deserving the ESPNcricinfo ODI Bowling Performance of the Year award for 2020 after shrugging off South Africa’s Lungi Ngidi’s match winning figures of six for 58 which helped South Africa to seal a home ODI series win against Australia in Bloemfontein.
“The ODI bowling award went to Blessing Muzarabani for his maiden five-four in the tied game in Rawalpindi. Muzarabani first dismissed top scorer Babar Azam to tie the game and then returned in the Super Over to take two wickets and give his batsmen an easy three runs to chase,” ESPNcricinfo wrote on its website yesterday.
The influential website also noted that the two runs Muzarabani conceded in the super over “is the most economical a bowler has been in a Super Over in international cricket”.
Other winners announced by ESPNcricinfo were Indian batsman Ajinkya Rahane who walked away with the Men’s Test Batting Performance of the Year award.
New Zealand fast bowler Kyle Jamieson picked up the Debutant of the Year accolade while another New Zealand seamer, Lockie Ferguson took home the Men’s T20I Bowling Performance of 2020 award. England batsman Jonny Bairstow won the Men’s Twenty20 International Batting Performance of 2020 accolade.
The Men’s ODI Performance of the Year went to Australian Glenn Maxwell for his display against England. Australian fast bowler Josh Hazelwood, who completely blew India away in Adelaide, scooped the Men’s Test Bowling Performance of 2020.
Poonam Yadav of India won the Women’s Bowling Performance of 2020 for her 4/19 against Australia. The Women’s T20I Batting Performance of the Year went to Alyssa Healy of Australia.
Men’s Test batting: Ajinkya Rahane 112 vs Australia
Men’s Test bowling: Josh Hazlewood 5 for 8 vs India
Men’s ODI batting: Glenn Maxwell 108 vs England
Men’s ODI bowling: Blessing Muzarabani 5 for 49 vs Pakistan
Men’s T20I batting: Jonny Bairstow 86* vs South Africa
Men’s T20I bowling: Lockie Ferguson 5 for 21 vs West Indies
Women’s batting: Alyssa Healy 75 vs India
Women’s bowling: Poonam Yadav 4 for 19 vs Australia
Debutant of the year: Kyle Jamieson
Follow Daniel on Twitter @danielnhakaniso