Sean Williams (142 runs) produced another Man of the Match performance as he batted Zimbabwe to victory in their first Super Six match of the International Cricket Council World Cup qualifier against a battling Oman in Bulawayo yesterday.
Even after posting a huge total of 332, Zimbabwe had to dig deep to restrict Oman to 14 runs shy of their target which was achieved through some special fielding particularly by Sikandar Raza and Luke Jongwe who took some brilliant catches at crucial moments of the game.
It was an almighty scare for Zimbabwe, who are still haunted by the ghosts of 2018 when they fumbled a chance to go the World Cup with a Super Six match defeat to lowly United Arab Emirates at Harare Sports Club.
Eventually the hosts crossed the line by 14 runs with wickets from Tendai Chatara (3 for 730 Blessing Muzarabani (3 for52) Richard Ngarava (2 for 60) and Sikandar Raza (1 for 57) helping them keep their perfect record in this tournament.
Before this match the coaches had spoken of the importance of not underrating anyone at this tournament and it proved yesterday that all teams are dangerous with Oman making this one the toughest matches Zimbabwe have played at this tournament.
For long periods, Oman kept themselves well in the game with some good batting display particularly by centurion Kashyap Prajapati who blasted some lusty blows easy finding the fence and putting Zimbabwe under pressure.
He had reached 103 from 97 balls before Raza produced a moment of magic with a brilliant diving catch with the ball sticking in-between his index and middle fingers off the bowling of Muzarabani.
This was the wicket that Zimbabwe needed after the unfortunate injury to Zeeshan Maqsood had dealt Oman a blow as they were building well with Prajapati.
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Oman still pushed for victory with Ayaan Khan (47) and Aqib Ilyas (45) doing well with the bat.
As much as it was tough in the field for Zimbabwe, it was equally challenging in the middle as Williams produced another master class with the blade as his partners struggled.
The tournament’s highest run scorer clubbed 14 boundaries and cleared the fence on three occasions while quick fire 28 ball 43 by Jongwe helped Zimbabwe set a target they could defend.
Raza scored 42 runs but the rest found the going tough.
Zimbabwe skipper Craig Ervine admitted that he breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the match.
“Very relieved. It was a tough game of cricket for us. (On the score) When we started batting, we felt 280-290 was going to be a good score. When we started our bowling innings, we figured out the pitch was good to bat on. Thankfully Sean Williams produced a special innings to get us up to 330 (332). (On the bowling display) The wicket did seem quite a bit different to the morning.
“Our bowlers missed our lengths and our lines a little bit and made it easier for Oman. (On what is a good score) It is quite tough to say. You lose the toss and you get put into bat, the first 10 overs were quite tough. We thought 280 was a good score. Obviously bowling second, we have to look at around 300-320.
“If the wicket is going to get better, you need a little bit extra to defend that.
“(Message to the team) We have been playing some really good cricket. I don't think we need to change too much. I thought today we still did our job extremely well. Two days to bounce back before we face Sri Lanka.”
Williams said while the pitch was a good battling one, it was not easy to hit boundaries.
“It was a pretty good wicket. Slow to start off with, difficult to hit the boundaries off the seamers in particular,” he said.”
“Felt running between the wickets was key. Tried to take the spinners on. Bowling got difficult towards the end but credit goes to our bowlers. They bowled really well towards the end.
“(On his mindset) Staying nice and calm is the most important thing.
“Running between the wickets is one of the most important things in cricket. It puts pressure on the bowler.
“The moment you show that intent, it puts pressure. When I first saw the wicket, I thought 270 would be a very good score. Thankfully everyone chipped in there and we got up to that total.”