A 31-RUN margin against Zimbabwe speaks of a comfortable win, but it was punctuated by familiar anxieties
West Indies kept their T20 World Cup hopes alive with victory over Zimbabwe by 31 runs with 10 balls to spare. Though the margin speaks of a comfortable win, it was one punctuated by familiar anxieties.
It was certainly not a typical performance from the two-time champions, and as such you would not describe this as a return to form. But they toughed out what looked to be a terminal collapse in the first innings, which saw them go from 90 for 2 to 101 for 6, to post 153 for 7, and showcased their intelligence and experience in the field to defend it. Head coach Phil Simmons' criticisms of an "unprofessional" batting effort in the 42-run defeat in their opening Group B match will still ring true after this, but he will no doubt feel heartened by a defiant showing when it was needed.
Johnson Charles, a replacement for an ill Brandon King, was responsible for the solid platform that was spurned at first, with 45 and the first two sixes of the West Indies' innings. Contributions from Rovman Powell (28) and Akeal Hosein (23 not out) then repaired the damage of Sikandar Raza’s fine spell of 3 for 19. But Alzarri Joseph's T20I career-best of 4 for 16 was the real difference.
Both sides made solitary, enforced changes, with Zimbabwe's the more off-setting after captain Craig Ervine suffered a mild asthma attack before the match. He was replaced by Tony Munyonga, with Regis Chakabva taking over the reins, the stand-in captain looking rueful at the end. At the very least, the runs down the order after finding themselves 92 for 7 reduced the impact of this defeat on Zimbabwe's net run rate, which is back to zero.
Chakabva was the happier skipper when the heart of West Indies' batting was ripped out in a remarkable passage of play that seemed to have all but ended their World Cup hopes in the space of 12 deliveries, with the loss of four for just 11 runs. They were 90 for 2 at the start of the 13th over before captain Nicholas Pooran registered a second single-figure score in as many innings, gifting Raza with a simple caught-and-bowled for the first of his three wickets. Before the over was out, Charles was sent packing after a lack of communication with Powell left him well short of his ground at the non-striker's end. By the end of the 14th, Raza had trapped Shamarh Brooks leg before and pouched another return catch off Jason Holder.
Powell, no doubt wrestling with guilt at the non-striker's end, set about making amends in a vital seventh-wicket stand of 47 with Akeal Hosein that got the Jamaican set into the final over. Eye in, he thumped the impressive Blessing Muzarabani for two sixes within the first three deliveries, the second of which went 104m — the second-longest of the tournament so far — and took West Indies to 150.
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Muzarabani would win the battle, snaring the right-hander with the next delivery, skied to Richard Ngarava at cover. It was, however, a wicket the Zimbabwe quick could have had in the 18th over had Luke Jongwe held a chance at extra cover when Powell had just 12. Combined with a life given to Charles on 15 earlier when Munyonga shelled one running towards the cover boundary — again of Muzarabani's bowling — the innings closed with a sense that, even with their excellence during the middle overs, Zimbabwe had missed opportunities to kill this game in the first innings.