Zimbabwe – 153-4 in 20 overs (Craig Ervine 55*, Sikandar Raza 37, Wessly Madhevere 23; Bernard Scholtz 2/19, Pikky Ya France 1/14, Gerhard Erasmus 1/15)
Namibia – 146-5 in 20 overs (Divan la Cock 66, Craig Williams 25, Zane Green 19; Milton Shumba 3/16, Brandon Mavuta 1/20, Tendai Chatara 1/25)
Zimbabwe won by seven runs
An unbeaten half-century from Craig Ervine and three important wickets from Milton Shumba were vital in Zimbabwe’s seven-run victory over Namibia in the first Twenty20 international match at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Tuesday.
The hosts decided to bat on winning the toss and opened their innings with Regis Chakabva and Wessly Madhevere.
The pair got their team off to a fair start, putting on 34 together with Madhevere in particular striking the ball well.
However, in the fifth over, Madhevere tried to drive a ball from Bernard Scholtz back over his head, but skyed a catch and was caught for 23 off 12 balls, with five fours.
Chakabva had scored 15 off 21 balls when he tried a fancy shot to the off from Scholtz and was bowled – 44 for two in the seventh over.
There followed the major partnership of the innings, as Sikandar Raza joined Ervine and they added 71 runs in nine overs, although they never really dominated the bowling to the extent desirable.
Raza scored 37 off 30 balls, but just as the last five overs began and a major scoring effort was needed, he tried a big leg hit off Gerhard Erasmus, the eighth bowler used by Namibia, and was lbw at 115 for three.
In the following over came another setback, as Milton Shumba (4) drove a catch off Pikky Ya France straight to extra cover to make the score 120 for four in the 17th over.
Ervine hit out well in the final overs, but there was not really enough time for Ryan Burl to get his eye in and launch into his most devastating strokes before the innings ended.
Ervine finished with 55 not out off 39 balls, with three sixes and three fours, while Burl had 11 off 11 balls.
It was the fine slow bowling of Scholtz in particular (two for only 19 off his four overs), backed by Ya France and Erasmus, that put the brakes on the Zimbabwe innings and restricted them to a score of 153 for four wickets.
Namibia got off to a fine start with their openers Craig Williams and Divan la Cock, who ran to 41 off the first five overs.
The bowlers then managed to tie down Williams, and eventually he holed out to deep midwicket off Brandon Mavuta for 25, scored off 34 balls.
By then the score was 67 for one in the 10th over, and la Cock was going well on 35.
It was now the turn of the Zimbabwe spinners to cause the batters to struggle, and the new man, Erasmus, soon skyed the ball behind point off Shumba, to be brilliantly caught by Donald Tiripano running back.
Jan Nicol-Eaton came in next, to score nine off 10 balls before he was smartly stumped by Chakabva off Shumba, to make the score 96 for three in the 15th over.
La Cock had just reached his fifty off 36 balls, but with five overs left Namibia needed 55 runs still to win and Zimbabwe seemed to have tipped the balance in their own favour.
La Cock hit Raza for six in an over that cost 12 runs, and in the following over he did the same to Shumba, only to be well caught off the next delivery by Luke Jongwe on the midwicket boundary.
This dismissal was the decisive blow for Zimbabwe, as it left Namibia at 119 for four in the 17th over, with the new batters needing a scoring rate of 10.5 an over to win, and then 33 were needed off the last three overs.
Tendai Chatara was brought on to bowl the 18th over, which cost nine runs as the batters scored off every ball.
The penultimate over was given to Jongwe, another paceman, and nine runs also came off this over, leaving Namibia to score 15 runs to win off the final over, given to Chatara.
A single came to David Wiese off the first ball, and then Zane Green, dabbling at a ball outside the off stump, was given out caught at the wicket for 19, scored off 15 balls.
Fourteen runs were needed off the final four deliveries, but the later batters now in could manage only six, and so Zimbabwe claimed a narrow victory by seven runs.
Shumba’s three vital top-order wickets, including that of the dangerous la Cock, had turned the match in Zimbabwe’s favour, and he finished with figures of three for 16, although only given three overs.