June 3, 2023

Zimbabwe 130 for 8 (Williams 31, Wasim 4-24, Shadab 3-23) beat Pakistan 129 for 8 (Masood 44, Raza 3-25, Evans 2-25) by one run

Zimbabwe promised to cause as much damage as they could in the Super 12s and, two games in, they have inflicted a major blow. They defended 130 to deny Pakistan their first points and leave them at risk of not making the semi-finals, and they did in extraordinary fashion.

After a strong start in their batting, they slipped to 95 for 7 and set Pakistan a modest target on a pitch with good bounce and a big outfield. But Zimbabwe have an understated and varied attack and they gave Pakistan’s – which Shadab Khan proudly proclaimed the best in the tournament – competition for that label.

Zimbabwe’s pacers removed Pakistan’s openers in the first five overs before Luke Jongwe dismissed Iftikhar Ahmed to leave the score at 36 for 3. Shan Masood and Shadab got the chase back on track with a 52-run fourth-wicket stand but then came the surprises.

Sikandar Raza, in the form of his life, took two wickets in two balls and another in his next over to leave Pakistan on 94 for 6. Still, they should have fancied their chances. Pakistan needed 38 runs in the last five overs; Zimbabwe scored 32 in theirs. The equation was more than doable. It still was at three needed off three but try telling Brad Evans that. Playing his first game of this World Cup, the fast bowler went W W 1 to flip the whole entire script.

And now Pakistan are hanging by a thread. Even if they win all of their remaining games, they will need some help from other teams to make the semi-finals (which now includes rooting for India to beat South Africa)

The final drama
Pakistan needed 29 runs off the last three overs, then 22 off the last two, and then the tension was broken when Mohammad Nawaz slammed a Richard Ngarava full toss over fine leg for six. Zimbabwe’s win probability plummeted from 71% before Nawaz’s strike to 34% after. The game seemed gone.

Evans had 10 runs to defend off the final over. His first ball was a half volley that found the gap between mid-off and extra cover. Nawaz and Mohammad Wasim ran three. His second ball was a back-of-the-hand slower ball. Wasim hit it over mid-off for four. His third ball was slower again, on fifth stump, and it was over Evans but only as far as mid-off. Pakistan had one more and needed only three off the last three balls.

Evans beat Nawaz’s cut with his fourth ball. Three off two needed. Then Nawaz tried to hit him over mid-off and found the Zimbabwean captain Craig Ervine, who took the catch at head height. Three off one. Shaheen Shah Afridi was sent in to try to find the winning run but drove the ball to long-on and ran. The fielder was standing closer in, to prevent two and swooped on it. The throw came to Regis Chakabva, who fumbled and then broke the stumps. Zimbabwe, in the unlikeliest of circumstances, had won.

Zimbabwe’s start with zing
After playing with complete abandon (and not much success) in a reduced match against South Africa in Hobart, Zimbabwe decided to show there’s more to their batting strategy when Ervine decided to front-up first against the Pakistan pacers in Perth. Zimbabwe dropped Chakabva (who had scores of 0, 13, 4 and 8 in the tournament before this match) down the order in favour of Wessly Madhevere and the switch paid off. Madhevere met Shaheen’s mostly-overpitched opening over with confident drives and Zimbabwe took14 runs off those six balls. At the other end, Ervine tucked into a wide delivery from Naseem Shah and then a straighter one before Madhevere slashed a short, wide Wasim delivery through point. At 38 for 0 after four overs, Zimbabwe’s best T20 World Cup powerplay – 57 against England – was in danger of being over-ridden.

… then wobble
The strong start soon unraveled as Ervine took his eyes off a Haris Rauf snorter and top-edged a pull to give Wasim a simple catch at short fine leg. Zimbabwe had to settle for their second-highest opening stand of the tournament – 42. Two balls later, Madhevere was given out lbw on review when he was hit high on the thigh flap by Wasim and ball-tracking showed it was going on to hit the top of the stumps. They finished the Powerplay on 47 for 2. Things got nervy as Pakistan turned the screws. Sean Williams pulled Shaheen to Iftikhar Ahmed at midwicket. He had the ball in his hands and then let it go as he tumbled to give Williams a second chance on 9. Five balls later, Shadab received a chance from Milton Shumba off his own bowling and had to take the catch low down. Zimbabwe lost 3 for 22 in 29 balls.

… then blow out
Iftikhar’s butter fingers did not improve and when Williams, on 28, slog-swept Shadab in his direction, he let the ball slip under him for four. Shadab eventually did the job himself again. Williams moved early for the reverse-sweep, Shadab had enough time to pull his length back and bowled Williams. Chakabva came out at No. 6 to face the next ball, which drew him forward and took the edge. The ball was headed over Babar Azam at slip, but the Pakistan captain stuck his right hand in the air and the ball stuck as he completed one of the catches of the tournament. Shadab’s four overs were done and the chance of a hat-trick gone for him but Wasim had better luck. He bounced Raza out with a slower bouncer, then ramped it up to 143kph for the next ball to bowl Luke Jongwe off the bottom edge. Zimbabwe lost four wickets for no runs in six balls and were 95 for 7 with 5.2 overs left to bat.

Pakistan lack some power in their play
Zimbabwe’s seamers also chose to go fairly full upfront but their lines were tighter than Pakistan’s had been and they found seam movement so it worked out a little better for them. Ngarava was unlucky not to dismiss Mohammad Rizwan with a delivery that swung back into him and skirted past off stump but Brad Evans, playing in his first match of the tournament, enjoyed some reward. He squared Babar up with a ball that the Pakistan captain looked to play leg side but slashed to Ryan Burl at point instead. Seven balls later, Rizwan tried to run Blessing Muzarabani down to third but inside-edged onto his stumps. Pakistan were 28 for 2 after their Powerplay – their second-lowest in T20 World Cups and their lowest against Zimbabwe.

But they’ll try to get there without it
Zimbabwe’s spinners – Raza, Williams and Burl – started the squeeze by imposing a boundary drought on Pakistan but they were unable to keep them from running ones, twos and even threes. In the 21 deliveries between overs 8.4 and 11.6, Pakistan scored 15 singles, three twos and a three and Zimbabwe delivered only two dot balls. With Williams’ wide, they conceded 25 runs. It may not seem like much in the context of the game, but on a big field, plugging the gaps was crucial and Zimbabwe were not always able to do so.

Stunning Sikandar at it again
After helping to keep Pakistan quiet, Raza brought out his variations to give Zimbabwe a genuine chance of causing an upset. Immediately after Shadab hit him for six, Raza sent down the knuckle ball, Shadab tried to launch him down the ground again but miscued to Sean Williams at long-off. With his next ball, Raza had Haider Ali playing around a full, straight delivery and hit him bang in front of middle stump. Haider was given out lbw and reviewed. Ball-tracking confirmed it was hitting the middle of middle stump. In his final over, the 16th, with Pakistan needing 38 runs off 30 balls, Raza had Shan Masood stumped off a quicker delivery, a leg-side wide, as he tried to flick. Pakistan were 94 for 5 and Raza had put Zimbabwe in a position to push for a win. It took a lot of hard work to get eventually there, and that just made it all the more sweet.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

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