Zimbabwe – 185-6 in 20 overs (Sikandar Raza 82*, Sean Williams 37, Regis Chakabva 31; Nisarg Patel 2/24, Aaron Jones 2/37, Saurabh Netravalkar 1/27)
USA – 139-8 in 20 overs (Steven Taylor 46, Nisarg Patel 24*, Marty Kain 18; Wellington Masakadza 4/11, Luke Jongwe 1/9, Sean Williams 1/11)
Zimbabwe won by 46 runs
Two game-changing performances inspired Zimbabwe to a 46-run victory over the United States of America (USA) at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Thursday, finishing top of their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier B 2022 group with three victories in three matches.
The first was recorded by Sikandar Raza, who came in with the hosts’ innings at a crossroads and hammered a magnificent 82 not out off 40 balls to take his team through to a powerful total.
The second was a vital spell of bowling from Wellington Masakadza, who came on at a stage when their opponents were threatening to take command, and seized four vital wickets to put the Americans on a slippery slope towards defeat.
Zimbabwe won the toss for the first time in this tournament and decided to bat first.
They looked for runs aggressively from the start, and in the second over of the innings, bowled by Rusty Theron, Regis Chakabva hit him for four, six and four off successive deliveries.
Craig Ervine also made a good start, but after scoring 11 off nine balls he paddled a ball from Nisarg Patel to backward square leg to be caught with the score 30 for one in the fourth over.
Sean Williams began fluently, but Chakabva now got a little bogged down, and in trying to drive a ball over extra cover off Patel was caught there for 30 off 21 balls – 59 for two in the eighth over.
Innocent Kaia did not settle in and was out lbw to Cameron Stevenson for two, making the score 64 for three and bringing together the renowned pair of Williams and Raza.
After 10 overs the score was 70 for three, a little disappointing after such a dynamic start.
The pair settled in as usual and then started attacking, the 100 coming up in the 14th over.
Raza, hitting brilliantly, overtook Williams in the thirties, and raced to his fifty off 29 balls.
Williams made 37 off 35 deliveries when he failed to time a big drive properly off Aaron Jones and was caught at long-off with the score 143 for four wickets in the 18th over.
This pair had revived the Zimbabwe innings yet again, having put on 79 runs in eight overs and two balls, almost 10 an over.
Ryan Burl hit a two, a six and then skyed his third delivery to be caught by the keeper, while Luke Jongwe, also hitting at everything, was bowled second ball for one by Saurabh Netravalkar.
Jones drew the short straw, as it were, to bowl the final over, and saw Raza smash his first three deliveries all for big sixes.
He then lost the strike, but Milton Shumba hit a four and a two off the final two balls to take the Zimbabwe total to a very impressive 185 for six wickets.
Raza’s innings was nothing short of brilliant – he scored 82 not out off only 40 balls, with five sixes and seven fours.
Patel was the best of the USA bowlers, taking two wickets for 24 in his four overs, while Netravalkar took one for 27.
Steven Taylor also bowled economically, no wicket but only 23 runs scored off him.
The other three bowlers all suffered severe punishment, though, with Jones finishing with the unusual figures of two for 37 off two overs.
Taylor and the captain, Monank Patel, opened the USA batting against the bowling of Richard Ngarava, who replaced the injured Tendai Chatara, and Blessing Muzarabani.
Taylor was soon showing ominous form, cracking three fours and then a six off Raza in the first three overs of the American innings.
When Patel got into the act, the score after five overs was 50 for no wicket.
At 55, though, Patel miscued a pull off a faster ball from Ngarava and was caught by Williams at midwicket for 17, scored off 15 balls – 55 for one in the sixth over.
Jones went for seven, brilliantly caught low down at mid-on by Shumba off Williams – 72 for two in the ninth over.
After 10 overs the score was 79 for two, better than Zimbabwe had been at that stage.
The vital man for the USA was Taylor, who was rather less devastating against the spinners than the pacemen, and in the following over he miscued Masakadza’s second ball and skyed a catch that was well taken by Shumba at mid-on.
He had scored 46 off 32 balls, with a six and five fours, and the score was 80 for three.
The batters crossed, and two balls later Masakadza bowled out Jaskaran Malhotra for five – this was the over that gave Zimbabwe the advantage.
Masakadza struck again in his second over, as Gajanand Singh was caught in the deep by Burl for four, reducing them to 91 for five in the 13th over, and the required run rate was now over 13.
The score passed 100, but the next man to go was Sushant Modani, bowled by a googly from Burl for five, and then Masakadza took a fourth wicket as Marty Kain (18) swung a catch to Burl at long leg.
Jongwe came on to bowl and took the wicket of Stevenson for five, and the innings closed at 139 for eight, with Patel scoring a good 24 not out off 17 balls to reduce the margin of defeat.
As Raza’s 82 dominated the Zimbabwe batting, so Masakadza’s four wickets for 11 runs dominated the USA innings, and he was only given three overs.
Zimbabwe will now play a semi-final against Papua New Guinea at Queens Sports Club on Friday.
Across town at Bulawayo Athletic Club, the USA will be taking on the Netherlands in the other last-four match.
The teams that make it into the final, scheduled for Sunday at Queens Sports Club, will clinch the two remaining spots at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 to be held in Australia in October.
ICC MEN’S T20 WORLD CUP QUALIFIER B 2022 STANDINGS