Specials – Zimbabwe’s most memorable T20I wins

  Zimbabwe are set to host heavyweights Australia and Pakistan in a T20 international triangular series starting from July 1. This will be the first time that a T20I tri-series will be played in Zimbabwe. The week-long tournament, to be held at the Harare Sports Club, will see each of the teams play the other two twice in a bid to reach the final.

  Disappointingly, the Zimbabwean squad for the tri-series is shorn of five key players, including star performers Brendan Taylor and Sikandar Raza, due to yet another dispute over player payments. However, the fickleness of the T20 format offers scope for the hosts to scalp a win or two, and thus add to their short list of T20I wins against higher-ranked opposition.

  As the potentially interesting three-way battle draws near, here is a look back at five of Zimbabwe’s best wins in T20 international cricket, in chronological order.

Beat Australia by five wickets, Cape Town, 2007-08

  Zimbabwe came into this game, their first at the inaugural World Twenty20, as clear underdogs. Australia had won the World Cup a few months earlier, and were expected to extend their dominance to the 20-over format as well. However, it was not to be, as Zimbabwe, led by Prosper Utseya, pulled off a stunning win under the Newlands lights, sparking off jubilant celebrations from their players.

  Elton Chigumbura (3/20) drew first blood for Zimbabwe, sending the formidable opening pair of Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist back to the hut in his first two overs. At the other end, Gary Brent (2/19) got rid of captain Ricky Ponting to continue the dream start; Australia’s score now reading 19/3 in four overs. Andrew Symonds and Brad Hodge stemmed the rot to an extent, taking Australia to 138/9.

Brendan Taylor

        Brendan Taylor is mobbed by his teammates after scoring 60* off 45 balls to help Zimbabwe upset Australia at the 2007 World T20 (source – skysports.com)

  Vusi Sibanda and Brendan Taylor began the chase with intent, racing to 31 within four overs. But Australia were not going to give up easily, and at 70/4 in the 11th over, it was anybody’s game. Thankfully for Zimbabwe, Taylor was still there, and he combined with Hamilton Masakadza for a fifth-wicket stand of 53. It all boiled down to the final over, from which 12 runs were needed with five wickets left.

  Taylor calmed Zimbabwean nerves by sweeping Nathan Bracken for four off the first ball, which was followed by a single. Chigumbura gathered three more from the next two  balls to leave Taylor with the task of scoring four from the last two. To Zimbabwe’s joy, the fifth ball raced away for four leg byes to seal the victory, with Taylor, later named man of the match, unbeaten on a heroic 60 from 45 balls.

Beat West Indies by 26 runs, Port of Spain, 2009-10

  Zimbabwe began disastrously after electing to bat on a spinning pitch at the Queen’s Park Oval, losing their first three wickets, all of them to left-arm spinner Suleiman Benn (4/6), without a single run on the board. Hamilton Masakadza (44) and Elton Chigumbura (34) provided some respectability, before the innings ended at 105 in the final over. Darren Sammy collected 5/26 with his medium pace.

  In reply, the West Indian batsmen were stifled by Zimbabwe’s spinners. At the ten-over mark, the hosts were struggling at 37/4, as the four-pronged attack of captain Utseya, fellow off-spinner Greg Lamb, left-armer Ray Price and leggie Graeme Cremer ran riot. They combined to take 7/55 in 16 overs, with Cremer starring with 3/11, which restricted the Windies to a measly 79/7 from their 20 overs. 

Beat India by ten runs, Harare, 2015

  Zimbabwe, under the captaincy of Sikandar Raza, levelled the two-match series thanks to a disciplined bowling effort that saw them defend a moderate total. Zimbabwe’s innings revolved around opener Chamunorwa Chibhabha’s 51-ball 67, which guided them to a fighting 145/7. Indian captain Ajinkya Rahane was run out in the first over, but Robin Uthappa’s charge took the score to 57/1 in just six overs.

Neville Madziva

       Zimbabwean pace bowler Neville Madziva exults after bowling a tight last over to deliver a two-run win for his team against India at Harare in 2016 (source – Getty Images)

  Cremer (3/18) kept Zimbabwe alive with two wickets in four balls, while Sean Williams’ left-arm spin consumed the dangerous Uthappa (42). Kedar Jadhav was run out soon after, and India had now lost four for 12 to slide to 69/5. Stuart Binny and Sanju Samson added 36 for the sixth wicket, but Zimbabwe kept the run rate in check. India failed to score 41 off the last five overs, and were limited to 135/9.

Beat Bangladesh by three wickets, Dhaka, 2015-16

  Having lost all three ODIs as well as the first of two T20Is, Zimbabwe rode on their lower order to finish their Bangladesh tour with a thrilling three-wicket victory at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur. A tidy display with the ball kept Bangladesh to 135/9 after the hosts elected to bat. Zimbabwe’s response began poorly, with the top three batsmen out for just 15 runs within the first five overs.

  It got even worse, as the score fell to 39/5 in the ninth over, including the loss of captain Chigumbura for a duck. The rescue act came through Luke Jongwe (34) and Malcolm Waller (40), who shared 55 for the sixth wicket. Yet, Zimbabwe needed 18 when the last over began. Waller was out off the first ball, but Neville Madziva (28*) tonked Nasir Hossain’s off-spin for 6,4,2,6 to bring up the win with a ball to spare.

Beat India by two runs, Harare, 2016

  Zimbabwe narrowly won their second consecutive T20I against India to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series. Chigumbura, no longer captain (Cremer replaced him at the helm in early 2016) and batting at number seven, belted seven sixes in an unbeaten 54 from 26 balls to power Zimbabwe to 170/6. India lost Lokesh Rahul off the very first ball of their innings, giving Zimbabwe an early grip over proceedings.

  When the fourth wicket fell at 90, India needed 81 from 46 balls, before Manish Pandey (48) and MS Dhoni added 53 for the fifth wicket to set up an exciting finale. The last over, bowled by Madziva, began with India needing eight runs. However, Madziva held his nerve, conceding only five, besides taking a wicket. Dhoni had to score four off the last ball, but managed only a single, as India ended at 168/6. 

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