Bangladesh – 303-2 in 50 overs (Litton Das 81, Anamul Haque 73, Tamim Iqbal 62; Sikandar Raza 1/48, Victor Nyauchi 1/65)
Zimbabwe – 307-5 in 48.2 overs (Sikandar Raza 135*, Innocent Kaia 110, Luke Jongwe 24; Mustafizur Rahman 1/57, Shoriful Islam 1/57, Mehidy Hasan Miraz 1/59)
Zimbabwe won by five wickets
Innocent Kaia and, once again, Sikandar Raza were the heroes, both scoring centuries, as a depleted Zimbabwe pulled off a wonderful five-wicket victory in the face of a 300-plus total by Bangladesh in the first of the three-match one-day international (ODI) series at Harare Sports Club on Friday.
Once again, the home side won the toss but this time round Regis Chakabva, standing in as the captain, put the tourists in to bat.
In addition to the loss of their leading pace bowlers, Blessing Muzarabani and Tendai Chatara, Zimbabwe were now without their experienced batters, skipper Craig Ervine and Sean Williams, for various reasons.
Tamim Iqbal and Litton Das opened the Bangladesh innings against the bowling of Richard Ngarava and Victor Nyauchi.
They concentrated on building a sound foundation for their team, collecting runs steadily.
Tamim was the more fluent of the two, as Litton took a while to find his timing.
The team 50 came up in the 10th over and the 100 in the 24th, just after Tamim reached his half-century off 79 balls.
The opening partnership was eventually worth 119 runs, coming to an end when Tamim miscued a slog to leg off Raza and skyed a catch to Kaia at short third man – he scored 62 off 88 balls with nine fours.
Anamul Haque looked for quick runs as soon as he arrived at the crease, while Litton reached his fifty off 75 balls and then began to open out, hitting Wellington Masakadza for three successive fours.
He scored another 31 runs off only 14 balls, but then in running a quick single pulled a muscle badly and had to be stretchered off the field – retired hurt for 81 off 89 balls, with nine fours and a six.
The score was now 171 for one in the 34th over, and there was no let-up for the Zimbabwe bowlers, as Mushfiqur Rahim joined Anamul, who raced to his fifty off 52 balls and then intensified his attack.
On 71 he was dropped by Wessly Madhevere off a straightforward catch at deep cover off Ngarava, but only scored two more before he holed out to Tarisai Musakanda at long-on off Nyauchi – 267 for two in the 46th over.
Mahmudullah came in and hit the first two balls he faced, from Ngarava, for four, but the bowlers tightened up considerably as the batters were swinging their bats, and did well that the 300 came up with only two deliveries in hand.
The final score was 303 for just two wickets – Mushfiqur had 52 off 49 balls and Mahmudullah 20 off 12 balls.
Bangladesh were to pay, though, for their inability to score more quickly at the death, especially as they had lost only two wickets during their innings.
Considering that only two batters were dismissed, it was a good effort for the Zimbabwe bowlers and fielders to keep the total to barely 300, but they all went for at least five runs an over, with Nyauchi and Raza the only ones to take wickets.
Chakabva opened the Zimbabwe batting with Musakanda, and almost immediately disaster struck.
With the last delivery of the first over, bowled by Mustafizur Rahman, Chakabva (2) tried to force a ball through the covers but got a bottom edge on to his stumps.
In the next over, from Shoriful Islam, Musakanda slashed the first ball for four, but then drove a catch to cover, and two wickets were down for six runs.
Kaia and Madhevere now had to repair the damage, and there was little time to waste.
They did a fine job for a while, with Kaia getting underway with three classic strokes for four.
They took the score to 62 in the 14th over when Kaia tried to steal a second run for a slight misfield and ran out his partner.
Madhevere, who began carefully but was beginning to blossom, scored 19 off 27 balls.
Kaia now had to consolidate again with Raza, who steadily got into his stride, while Kaia reached his fifty off 66 balls.
However, the required run rate had now risen above seven an over, and as they became rather bogged down between about 25 and 30 overs it went up to eight.
Raza then reached his fifty with a six over long-off from Mustafizur’s bowling, and immediately edged a four, and he was in his element again and catching up with Kaia, which he did when both had 74.
Perhaps spurred into action, Kaia raced through the eighties, and both batters were in the nineties together, eschewing any ideas of playing safe at this stage.
Kaia reached his first international century while Raza was on 98, a wonderful innings in a difficult situation, which took him 115 balls.
Later in the same over, bowled by Taskin Ahmed, Raza also reached three figures, his century coming off 81 balls.
By this time the score was 235 for three after 39 overs, and the required run rate was back to just over six, with Zimbabwe well on course for victory if they could continue batting in this way.
The partnership finally came to an end at 254, in the 42nd over, as Kaia tried to slog Mosaddek across the line and was caught at short fine leg off the top edge.
Kaia had scored 110 off 122 balls, with two sixes and 11 fours, a magnificent innings.
The pair had put on 192 together for the fourth wicket – the Zimbabwe record ODI partnership for this wicket remains at 202 by Stuart Carlisle and Sean Ervine against India at Adelaide in Australia in 2003/04.
Luke Jongwe now joined Raza at the wicket, with the required run rate at about six an over.
With six overs to go, 34 runs were still needed for victory, which became 21 off the last four.
Jongwe hit Mustafizur for six over midwicket to help matters along, but at 296 he was caught near the square-leg boundary off Mehidy Hasan Miraz for 24, which took him 19 balls.
In the following over, the 49th, Raza decisively ended the match with another six, a huge one over midwicket off Mosaddek, to take the final score to 307 for five wickets.
His final score was 135 not out, just short of his career best of 141 against Afghanistan in Bulawayo in 2014.
Four Bangladeshi bowlers took one wicket each and, as in their own innings, none of them were more economical than five runs an over.
The second ODI between the sides is scheduled for Sunday at the same venue, with play starting at 9.15AM.