DHAKA – On Monday, Zimbabwe’s captain Brendan Taylor asked his batsmen to put more value on their wickets. Today, they did.
On Monday, Zimbabwe’s match against Ireland went down to the last ball and they lost. Today, the margins were just as close, but the result was different.
Zimbabwe kept themselves in contention for the main draw of the World Twenty20 (T20), despite making hard work of chasing 141 on a surface which, on Monday, Taylor had assessed as a 180-run pitch. They needed much less and were solid at the start, but almost left themselves with too much to do at the end.
Having watched their own bowlers pluck the Netherlands top-order in the powerplay, and concede 37 runs in the next six overs, Zimbabwe approached their chase conservatively at first. Hamilton Masakadza and Sikandar Raza left as many deliveries as they hit upfront before Raza was hurried into skying one to deep midwicket.
The early setback did not rattle Zimbabwe. At the same stage in Netherlands’ innings, after 4,3 overs, Zimbabwe had already taken four wickets. Prosper Utseya had two of those, removing Stephan Myburgh for a first-ball duck and having Peter Borren caught at mid-off.
The Cooper brothers held Netherlands’ innings together, and Zimbabwe had Masakadza and Taylor. Tom and Ben Cooper put on 52 for the fifth wicket for Netherlands, with Tom, the senior partner, adding 29 of those runs. Masakadza and Taylor put on 62 and took Zimbabwe closer to the target.
The Zimbabwe pair showed patience, focusing as much as on singles, and trying to turn them into twos, as they did on clearing the boundary. They each managed the latter only once, off Tom Cooper in the 10th over, which left Zimbabwe with 75 to get off the second half of their innings.
Three boundary-less overs followed and the required run rate crept up, but Masakadza and Taylor were resolute in not rushing. Then Masakadza decided one of them had to. He charged Pieter Seelaar for the second time in the over and missed to find the ball hitting the middle stump.
When Netherlands lost their fifth wicket, with 6,1 overs left in the innings, Mudassar Bukhari went in to bat. He shared a stand of 53 with Cooper and assumed the role of the finisher. Zimbabwe lost Masakadza with 6,3 overs left in their chase and decided not to hold their big-hitter back. Elton Chigumbura was promoted to No 4, but was out two balls after he arrived. He slapped Seelaar straight to cover to leave Netherlands with the advantage and Taylor out in the middle on his own.
The next two overs yielded only ones and twos as Peter Borren’s slower ball and Timm van der Gugten’s full delivery proved miserly.
Zimbabwe needed 40 runs off the last 24 balls, but they would have known it was not impossible as Netherlands had scored 37 in the same period.
Ball one of the 17th over. Logan van Beek overpitched and Taylor hit over mid-on for four. Ball two: Van Beek was too short and Taylor got four more. Off the last ball of the over, Van Beek went short again and Sean Williams found the gap between mid-wicket and square leg, making the equation a manageable 25 off 18.
The next six balls from Ahsan Malik offered no width at all. Taylor and Williams carved out 10 runs anyway to bring it down to 15 off the 12.
Van der Gugten was back to bowl the penultimate over. Taylor tried to lift him over the covers, but Borren stuck out his hand to pull off a tough chance. Zimbabwe would have to score 14 off 11 without Taylor. Van der Gugten aimed at the toes for the rest of that over, but Williams and Vusi Sibanda kept him out and took the runs on offer to bring it down to seven off the last six.
Malik started the final over with a yorker. Then he conceded two. Williams swung wildly at the next ball, but the inside edge beat Wesley Baressi to go for four. One needed off three. Zimbabwe appeared to have turned into the South African class of 1999 when Williams missed the next ball and followed that up with a mindless run that found him well short of his ground.
With the fielders up to save the single, Malik missed the yorker and Sibanda lofted the ball over long-on, sending it into the stands. Borren covered his eyes so he did not have to look, Taylor opened his.