|Scorecard:||Zimbabwe v Bangladesh|
The great figure of Heath Streak again stood between Bangladesh and victory at Harare Sports Club in the deciding one-day international. In a remarkable day, when both teams recorded a century opening partnership followed by a catastrophic middle-order collapse, the calm measured batting of Streak – who had again bowled and fielded superbly – proved the difference as he guided Zimbabwe through to a tense three-wicket victory.
On a cool, cloudy morning with a strong threat of rain later in the day, Bangladesh won the toss and decided to bat in the deciding match of the series. Zimbabwe were without Andy Blignaut and Mark Vermeulen, unfit again, while the shock news from Bangladesh was that one of their top bowlers, Mohammad Rafique, had been sent home for disciplinary reasons. He was replaced by Manjarul Islam Rana, but the loss of his bowling was a serious blow for his team.
Heath Streak as usual was on target right from the first ball, bowling his usual testing opening spell. Hannan Sarkar also looked in good form, though, and he hooked Hondo for six over long leg. Hondo conceded 22 runs in three overs before being replaced by Brent, as Streak was again left looking for adequate support from the other end. Sarkar had it, as stand-in opener Manjarul Islam proved a fine foil.
Zimbabwe needed Streak to break through in his opening spell, but he retired after bowling six overs for 15 runs. The Bangladeshi openers continued to bat extremely well and it was clear Zimbabwe were in some trouble. Sarkar on 39 was dropped at backward point by Barney Rogers off Ervine, with the total on 63, the first chance that had gone to hand, although there had been one or two fortunate strokes just wide of the fielders. Shortly afterwards Carlisle missed a very difficult high catch off Sarkar on the point boundary. Just after Sarkar reached his fifty, Tatenda Taibu was the next offender, missing a difficult catch and stumping chance.
To show Lady Luck had now totally switched sides, a brilliant run-out attempt was given not out by the third umpire, by the narrowest of margins, and an apparently plumb lbw appeal by Grant Flower against Sarkar was rejected by umpire Brian Jerling. Bangladesh were playing like a team with victory confidently in their sights, while Zimbabwe looked doomed to defeat.
The breakthrough finally came when Sarkar (59) mistimed a sweep against Price and Rogers was able to make some atonement for his earlier error with a catch near the long leg boundary; 105 for one. Then, without addition, Mohammad Ashraful, promoted to number three, lobbed a catch towards vacant short square leg off bat and pad, only for Taibu behind the stumps to run round and take a fine catch.
Bangladesh regrouped, and another good partnership followed with Rajin Saleh before Manjarul’s valuable innings came to an end on 63, as he drove a low catch to long-on off Flower; 153 for three. Only two runs later another wicket fell, as Saleh was run out for 21, thanks to quick work in the field by Streak. Zimbabwe sensed themselves back in the match and began to come alive again.
Lady Luck then suddenly did a complete about-turn. Alok Kapali scored 8 before umpire Jerling adjudged him caught at short leg off bat or glove, by Taibu running round off Flower; 164 for five. Habibul Bashar opted to come in down the order at seven, but it did him no good: he slogged at Brent before settling in and holed out to deepish mid-on for 2. Then Mushfiqur Rahman (3) swept at Flower, to be given out caught at the wicket by Jerling, although the replay appeared to show the ball hitting the forearm. At 168 for seven in the 43rd over, Bangladesh had lost their grip, with five wickets going down for 15 runs, two of them perhaps unluckily.
After a brief respite, Khaled Mahmud (3) was well caught by Carlisle diving at mid-on from a powerful low hit off Ervine; 177 for eight. Without addition Khaled Mashud (2) top-edged a leg hit off Streak, returning for his final spell, and was caught and long leg, and finally Tapash Baishya (4) was caught at slip by Carlisle, his third catch of the innings, leaving Tareq Aziz unbeaten with 2.
As usual, Streak with Zimbabwe’s most impressive bowler with two for 17 off 8.5 overs. Spinners Flower and Price took three for 36 and two for 38 respectively off their ten overs each. With a total of 183, seven balls short of 50 overs, Bangladesh could not win this match – but Zimbabwe could certainly throw it away. And rain could intervene.
Flower, opening again, looked positive from the start of the Zimbabwe innings, although his first scoring shot was a thick edge that flew just over the slips. Rogers also began confidently and the new opening pair pushed the score along at about than five runs an over. They grew in confidence as the Bangladeshi hopes waned, playing some fine drives in particular, and the century partnership came up in the 21st over.
Flower was first to his fifty but, with rain threatening in the 23rd over, he tried to hit Mahmud wide of mid-on and substitute fielder Al-Sahariar took a fine catch to send him back for 59. The opening partnership had put on 112. Two balls later Zimbabwe showed possible intent to take a leaf out of Bangladesh’s book as Carlisle slashed at a ball from Mahmud outside the off stump and departed without scoring.
Zimbabwe were relieved when 25 overs had been bowled and they were well ahead on Duckworth-Lewis. But Bangladesh were on the comeback trail, Zimbabwe’s fragile nerves were getting the better of them again, and Stuart Matsikenyeri was trapped lbw by Mahmud without scoring. Two balls later Taibu, flashing, edged a catch to the keeper and Zimbabwe had slumped to 119 for four, with Mahmud’s gentle medium-pace the beneficiary each time. The match was swinging again rapidly as Zimbabwe set out to prove that anything Bangladesh could do, they could do better.
Ervine was Bangladesh’s next benefactor, playing a ball from Aziz on to his stumps to depart for a single; 120 for five, and the five wickets having fallen for eight runs. Streak marched to the wicket, and it was clear that once again the destiny of the match rested on his broad shoulders.
Rogers, however, was not up to the new situation, losing his fluency in the crisis, playing tentatively at a ball from Aziz which flew off the shoulder of his bat to point. He made 54, and Zimbabwe were now 124 for six.
Dion Ebrahim at least showed few traces of nerves as he arrived at the wicket to partner Streak. Mahmud, who bowled with accuracy, determination and enthusiasm but should not have tested quality batsmen unduly, bowled out his ten overs to finish with four wickets for 19 runs.
Streak, as usual these days, took a long time to settle in, taking no risk whatever, but then began to look for the loose ball and the boundary. The threat of rain diminished, but once again, just as the situation was turning again, Ebrahim ran himself out for 11. He turned for a risky two for a stroke to third man, but if he called for his second he did not call loudly enough for Streak to hear. Zimbabwe were 157 for seven.
Bangladesh suffered agonies as Brent offered a very hard low catch to the keeper before he had scored, the ball streaking to the boundary. In the next over, from Islam, Brent looked to attack rather than leave the job to Streak. He hit a superb straight boundary, but it was a high-risk stroke considering there were still 12 overs in hand.
Every now and then a powerful stroke from Streak scorched to the boundary, and Zimbabwe slowly drew closer to their target. A cover-driven four off Aziz took the score to 181, and then in the next over, the 43rd, Brent chose the right ball from Ashraful to hit to the cover boundary and grasp a victory that some of his team-mates scarcely deserved. Zimbabwe should enjoy their two-one victory when they can, because next time the teams play Bangladesh will probably be the favourites.
(Article: Copyright © 2004 John Ward)