Sikandar Raza struck a fighting half-century and added 84 unbeaten runs with Tendai Chisoro – a record ninth-wicket stand for Zimbabwe in ODIs – as the home side recovered from 89 for 7 to a competitive 218 on a slow, sticky surface at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo. Raza brought up his half-century off 85 balls, to warm cheers from an appreciative Bulawayo crowd, and ended up with 76 crucial runs for his team. He first put on 38 for the eighth wicket with Donald Tiripano. Then, Chisoro, who previously had a highest score of 12, joined Raza and finished with a 35-ball 42.
Zimbabwe’s innings had earlier been wrecked by spinners Devendra Bishoo and Ashley Nurse. After a rain break had interrupted the innings at 48 for 1 and reduced the match to 49 overs a side, Bishoo and Nurse ran riot, engineering a collapse of 6 for 41. Between them, they took 6 for 57 in 20 overs, but when they had exhausted their quota of overs, Raza and the tail fought back against the seamers. Batting through a steady, incessant drizzle, they hauled Zimbabwe up to a total that kept them in the contest in the must-win encounter.
Despite being gifted some loose deliveries and sloppy overthrows early on, Zimbabwe didn’t get off to the best of starts. Chamu Chibhabha had his middle and off stumps uprooted after playing around a Jason Holder delivery in the fourth over. It could have got worse for the hosts had Rovman Powell not dropped a sharp chance at cover-point off Brian Chari in the next over.
Zimbabwe had stuttered to 24 for 1 after six, when a poor seventh over from Miguel Cummins provided them some relief. The second ball of the over – a full one on Hamilton Masakadza’s pads – was put away for four past mid-on. Cummins overstepped on the next delivery and then followed that with another no-ball, which was also a wide full toss that Masakadza belted for four. Then came a wide. In all, Cummins conceded 13 runs in a nine-ball over that breathed some life into Zimbabwe’s innings.
But, after a rain interruption had stalled the batting side’s momentum, West Indies came roaring back. On the third ball after the resumption, Bishoo bowled a full ball into the blockhole that beat Masakadza’s defence. Thereafter, batsman after batsman demonstrated poor technique against spin to send the innings into a downward spiral. Chari, Peter Moor and Graeme Cremer all rocked back and played cross-batted shots to deliveries that should have had them playing forward. They were all bowled. Craig Ervine and Sean Williams both played forward, but the former was beaten by the turn and trapped in front, while the latter could only manage a fine edge through to the keeper.
Just when it seemed that Zimbabwe would slump to a double-figure total, Raza and Tiripano started the counterattack. Holder bounced Tiripano out to end a pesky eighth-wicket stand, but that only paved the way for an even thornier partnership that frustrated West Indies.
Raza and Chisoro built their partnership on ones and twos, minimising risk as they looked to bat out the overs. With two overs to go, though, they both cut loose – Raza creamed two fours through the cover region, while Chisoro unleashed two mighty pulls for six. The pair plundered 29 runs off the last two overs to send Zimbabwe into the interval on a high.