T20 World Cup: Sikandar Raza’s 82, bowlers lead Zimbabwe to clinical 31-run win over Ireland

HOBART — All-rounder Sikandar Raza continued his glorious run in 2022 with a fantastic 82 off 48 balls while the bowlers, led by Blessing Muzarabani, Tendai Chatara and Richard Ngarava led Zimbabwe to a clinical 31-run over Ireland in a Group B first round match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup at the Bellerive Oval on Monday.

Zimbabwe, playing in their first T20 World Cup match after 2016, made a winning comeback in their return to the tournament fold and are now at second place in the Group B table, behind Scotland.

After Raza’s 82 propelled Zimbabwe to a competitive 174/7, Muzarabani (3/24), Chatara (2/22) and Ngarava (2/22) hit their lengths beautifully in their respective four overs yielding seven wickets overall to restrict Ireland to 143/9 in 20 overs.

Ngarava set the tone upfront for Zimbabwe by castling Paul Stirling on the second ball of Ireland’s chase. He returned back in the third over to take out Lorcan Tucker, who shuffled a long way and failed to make any contact with attempted heave.

Muzarabani joined the party in the next over by removing Harry Tector, who gave a healthy outer edge to first slip and three balls later, claimed Andy Balbirnie in the same fashion to reduce Ireland to 22/4 in his first over of the match.

George Dockrell (24) and Curtis Campher (27) added 42 runs for the fifth wicket in an attempt to get Ireland back on track. But both the batters perished to Zimbabwe’s spinners in a bid to go big. While Dockrell was castled by Raza, Campher was clean bowled by Sean Williams in an attempt to slog-sweep.

Chatara entered the wickets column by taking out Gareth Delany and Simi Singh on successive deliveries to get the match firmly in Zimbabwe’s favour. Barry McCarthy and Mark Adair hit a few boundaries as Zimbabwe spilled a couple of catches, but that was all to reduce the margin of loss.

Earlier, Raza’s knock of 82, laced with five fours and as many sixes at a strike-rate of 170.83, took Zimbabwe to their highest score in their history of T20 World Cup participation. It was an innings where no other batter crossed 22.

Ireland had an early breakthrough through their short-ball strategy as Joshua Little got the glove edge of Regis Chakabva carrying to the keeper on just the second ball of the innings. Five overs later, Little again struck when Wesley Madhevere hooked a short ball to deep backward square leg.

One brought two for Ireland as Singh got Craig Ervine stumped easily in the final over of powerplay. From 39/3 in first six overs, Raza took over and unleashed a flurry of boundaries. He was brutal against the spinners and was at his aggressive best from the word go.

Raza was feasting on Ireland’s short-ball attack, constantly scything through the leg-side region for his boundaries, including all of his five sixes hit majorly between deep backward square leg and deep mid-wicket arc and also shared a stand of 42 with Sean Williams.

Despite wickets falling around, he got into his position quickly and confidently hit off the backfoot through the short square boundary to get Zimbabwe past 170. His wonderful knock was brought to an end when Adair cleaned him up on the final ball of the innings.

Raza got good support from Milton Shumba’s 14-ball 16 and Luke Jongwe hitting three fours in his unbeaten 20 off 10 balls, at a strike-rate of 200. For Ireland, Little was excellent in his spell of 3/24 while Singh and Adair had figures of 2/31 and 2/39 respectively.

Brief Scores: Zimbabwe 174/7 in 20 overs (Sikandar Raza 82; Joshua Little 3/24, Simi Singh 2/31) beat Ireland 143/9 in 20 overs (Curtis Campher 27, George Dockrell 24; Blessing Muzarabani 3/23, Tendai Chatara 2/22) by 31 runs. — (IANS)