Ryan Burl hammered a swashbuckling half-century, including a brutal 34 runs off an over, as Zimbabwe beat Bangladesh by 10 runs at Harare Sports Club on Tuesday to clinch the three-match Twenty20 international (T20I) series.
The home side once again won the toss and decided to bat.
Regis Chakabva and Craig Ervine gave Zimbabwe a brief but brisk start, scoring 29 in the first three overs before Chakabva miscued a hit over the covers off the bowling of Nasum Ahmed and was caught for 17.
Runs then came steadily until the sixth over, when Wessly Madhevere came down the pitch to Mahedi Hasan and played over the ball to be bowled for five – 45 for two.
Then came a great blow to Zimbabwe, as their hero of the season, Sikandar Raza, attempted a leg-side slog off the first ball he faced and was caught at short fine leg off the top edge.
Sean Williams saved the hat-trick as he joined Ervine, who was still batting steadily at the other end.
However, Williams did not last long either, as he slogged a good-length ball from Mosaddek to be caught on the midwicket boundary for two – 54 for four in the ninth over.
In the following over, Ervine moved down the pitch but missed a ball outside his off stump and was stumped for 24, scored off 27 balls.
The score was now a disastrous 55 for five in the 10th over, and Milton Shumba and Burl were now together in an attempt to restore some order to the innings.
In this dire situation they took no risks, scoring only in singles apart from a cover drive for four by Burl.
The caution did not work, as in the 13th over Shumba, who made four off 11 balls, edged a defensive stroke to the wicket-keeper off Mustafizur Rahman – 67 for six.
Luke Jongwe came in and immediately hit his first two deliveries for four, the first an inside edge and the second a square drive to deep point.
The left-handed Burl now felt he had his eye in as he faced up to the left-arm spinner Nasum, picking him up for four successive leg-side sixes, followed by a four and another six.
This made it 34 runs off the over, a record for a Zimbabwean and third on the all-time list in T20I cricket – Yuvraj Singh of India and Kieron Pollard of West Indies have both hit six sixes in an over.
The fourth six took the Zimbabwe total to 100 in the 15th over.
Jongwe joined in with two fours off the next over, bowled by Hasan Mahmud, and at last the hosts were producing a worthy partnership.
Runs continued to flow, and another six brought Burl his first T20I fifty off only 24 balls.
He lost Jongwe in the 19th over, caught at cover off Hasan Mahmud, having scored a gallant 35 off only 20 balls, with two sixes and four fours.
The pair put on 79 for the seventh wicket in just five overs and a ball, a new Zimbabwean T20I record, beating the 45 scored by Chakabva and Neville Madziva against Afghanistan in 2019/20.
Later in the same over, Burl’s great innings came to an end, most unfortunately as his bat broke when he aimed for a six over long-on and instead was caught by the fielder there.
He scored 54 off 28 balls, with six sixes and two fours, having wisely played himself in before launching his assault.
Brad Evans (five not out) and Victor Nyauchi (one not out) took the score to 156 for eight after 20 overs.
Hasan Mahmud and Mahedi both took two wickets, while the most economical bowlers were Mustafizur and Mosaddek, who both claimed one for 22 off four overs.
Litton Das made an aggressive start to the Bangladesh reply, scoring nine runs from the first four balls, bowled by Evans.
He hit Nyauchi’s first ball for four, but then gave a low return chance off the next delivery that the bowler took well – out for 13 off six balls.
His opening partner, Parvez Hossain Emon, did not last long, scoring only two before he tried to hit over mid-on in Nyauchi’s next over, only to be caught at 24 for two.
Then Anamul Haque played a bad stroke to a long hop from Madhevere and was bowled out for 14, making the score 34 for three in the fifth over.
This brought in the experienced Mahmudullah to join Najmul Hossain Shanto, and they played a canny game together, working the ball round the field so skilfully that they scored singles off most deliveries, rotating the strike all the time.
However, it came to an end in the ninth over, when Shanto tried to break the mould, attempted a ramp stroke off Williams and was caught by Jongwe at short fine leg for 16 off 20 balls – 60 for four in the 10th over.
Afif Hossain continued to play the singles game with Mahmudullah, with the occasional four, but on the whole the Zimbabwe bowlers and fielders kept it tight and the required run rate crept up to just over 10 an over.
The game took a definite turn Zimbabwe’s way in the 15th over, when Mahmudullah, trying to speed up the scoring, attempted to hit a ball from Evans over the off-side field, but instead edged a catch to Chakabva behind the stumps, having scored 27 off 27 balls.
This was on 99, and off the very next ball the new man Mosaddek Hossain tried to pull a short ball from Evans before getting his eye in, and Chakabva took the skyed catch.
At this stage, 58 runs were needed off the last five overs, with only four wickets left, and the advantage now lay with Zimbabwe.
Bangladesh now had to look for boundaries, with Afif the one specialist batter left and joined by Mahedi.
Afif hit Jongwe for two successive fours, and Mahedi hit Evans for six and four in a row, keeping the tourists still in the game.
Now, 26 runs were then needed off the final two overs.
Nyauchi bowled the 19th over and successfully removed Mahedi, caught by Raza off a slog-sweep for an admirable 22 off 17 balls.
Seven runs and a wicket came off the over, which left Bangladesh to score 19 to win off the final over.
Jongwe was given the final over, and he struck with his second ball, as Raza took another catch, this time at long-off, to dismiss the new man, Hasan Mahmud, second ball for three.
Afif could manage only two, two and one off the next three balls, all well bowled, and a two off the final delivery took the total to 146 for eight wickets, giving Zimbabwe the match by 10 runs and the series by two matches to one, one of their most memorable victories.
Nyauchi was the most successful bowler, with three wickets for 29 runs, including the two opening batters.
Evans also bowled well to take two, while for economy Raza bowled his four overs without a wicket, but conceding only 21 runs.
With the T20I series done and dusted, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh will now lock horns in three one-day international matches starting this Friday at Harare Sports Club.
Zimbabwe – 156-8 in 20 overs (Ryan Burl 54, Luke Jongwe 35, Craig Ervine 24; Mahedi Hasan 2/28, Hasan Mahmud 2/28, Mahmudullah 1/8)
Bangladesh – 146-8 in 20 overs (Afif Hossain 39*, Mahmudullah 27, Mahedi Hasan 22; Victor Nyauchi 3/29, Brad Evans 2/26, Wessly Madhevere 1/14)
Zimbabwe won by 10 runs
Ervine: we struggled a little bit upfront. That one over pushed the momentum back in our favour. We came with the plan that our reserve players were as good as players in the XI. We could’ve easily fallen over today but the guys showed the fight
Sikandar Raza is the Player of the Series: I hope we don’t refer this to as a purple patch and there are a better things to come. We have this mantra going that no matter how bad the situation, we can go on and win the match. It’s up to us senior players to raise our hand and make it count – to contribute to the team’s cause. To see the younger players raise their hands and do the needful is delightful to see
Burl is the Player of the match: Losing a few wickets early up wasn’t ideal. Just trusting the process and keeping the options positive was crucial
Mossadek: First 14 overs we were on top and the 15th over was the difference in the game. Afif striked very well. Everyone knows how good we are in ODI’s and hopefully we play well
The penultimate over bowled by Nyauchi was a stellar one and 19 runs off the final over was going to be a tough ask. One could say that Afif buckled under pressure as the decision to take the single of the first ball of the over was a poor one.