Zimbabwe’s batting line-up put up a power-packed performance, something they hadn’t done earlier in the series, to keep it alive with a 31-run win in the third T20 against Bangladesh. THE REPORT BY VISHAL DIKSHIT
Zimbabwe’s spinners continued to pick wickets, like they had done earlier in the series, and derailed the hosts’ chase around the halfway mark despite their strong start.
Marshalled by Vusi Sibanda at the start and Malcolm Waller later, Zimbabwe’s sustained aggression took them to a challenging 187 after stand-in captain Hamilton Masakadza had said the “160-mark” would be decent on this pitch in Khulna. Tendai Chisoro, Graeme Cremer and Sikandar Raza took all six wickets and conceded only 40 runs in their 10 overs.
There were useful contributions from all of Zimbabwe’s top five batsmen, and each of them had a strike rate of over 120.
Sibanda showed his intent from the first ball he faced by charging at left-arm pacer Abu Hider, one of the four Bangladesh debutants, to drill him through the covers for four. He carved out a pretty wide ‘V’ on both sides of the pitch by dispatching meaty drives and flicks. Masakadza also got going after a slow start, and hammered Mohammad Shahid, another debutant, for four consecutive fours, but fell for 20 when in search of a fifth.
Hider and Shahid were punished for 45 runs in the first four overs and Sibanda welcomed the third debutant Muktar Ali with a four as well. Zimbabwe were 59 for 1 when rain interrupted and Shakib Al Hasan had Richmond Mutumbami and Sibanda caught at deep midwicket after the break, in consecutive overs, to drag the run-rate from over ten to under eight.
Meanwhile, Waller and Williams were getting themselves set. And having faced about ten balls each, they unfurled a barrage of boundaries to help Zimbabwe swindle 85 runs from the last seven overs; six of those went for at least ten an over.
Mosaddek Hossain dropped Williams on 12 at backward point, but it was Waller who caused more damage. Shahid, Mashrafe Mortaza and Shakib – all were punished for sixes before Waller eventually holed out to deep midwicket, for a 23-ball 49. Williams continued till the last over and some late strikes from Peter Moor too meant the Bangladesh bowlers got no respite.
Chisoro dented Bangladesh’s chase in the first over to dismiss Imrul Kayes, playing his first match of the series, for 1 but Soumya Sarkar and Sabbir Rahman kept the hosts in the hunt. Sarkar used his wrists to find gaps and Sabbir targeted the leg side, just like he had done in the second T20, with pulls and slogs. Sabbir mirrored Masakadza by dispatching three straight fours in the sixth over that hauled their run-rate over nine. Zimbabwe also paid the price for Mutumbami’s mistake when he missed Sarkar’s stumping off Williams’ first ball. That over cost 12 runs and the visitors seemed unsettled.
Zimbabwe caught a break when Sarkar top-edged a slog sweep for an easy catch at midwicket in Cremer’s first over that broke their most productive and threatening stand, of 67 runs. Masakadza rotated his spinners for the next nine overs, the asking rate shot up and the wickets came down. Sabbir brought up a 31-ball fifty with a four in the 11th over but fell two balls later by holing out in the leg side.
Their hopes fell on Shakib, but he found Waller at long-on with 86 required from 36. Mahmudullah top-edged Cremer in the same over to give Mutumbami an easy catch. As well as Nurul Hasan scooped during his 17-ball 30 and Muktar supported him with 19 from 15, it just wasn’t enough.
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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