Sikandar Raza played a breathtaking knock of 82 from 48 deliveries and claimed bowling figures of 1/22 to power Zimbabwe to a comprehensive 31-run win over Ireland in their opening match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart on Monday.
Ireland captain Andy Balbirnie opted to field after winning the toss and his bowlers responded well as they reduced Zimbabwe to 37/3 within the powerplay. Left-arm pacer Josh Little dismissed Regis Chakabva for a duck and then went on to dismiss Wesley Madhevere, who looked in good touch during his knock of 22. Spinner Simi Singh increased Zimbabwe’s miseries further as he dismissed skipper Craig Ervine in the very next over.
It was very important for Zimbabwe to get a partnership going after those early wickets and they got exactly that as Raza and Sean Williams put on a stand of 42 runs for the fourth wicket. Simi Singh dismissed Williams in the 11th over of the innings to bring Ireland back into the game but there was no stopping Raza who went completely berserk.
Even though wickets kept falling at one end, Raza carried on his assault from the other end. The Ireland bowlers had no answer to his onslaught as the 36-year-old kept motoring on. Even though he kept running out of partners throughout the innings, Raza did get good support at the back end from Luke Jongwe, who remained unbeaten on 20 from just 10 deliveries. Raza played right until the end of Zimbabwe’s innings but he was cleaned up while going for a big shot in the very last delivery. The veteran all-rounder made 82 from 48 deliveries, an innings consisting of five fours and as many sixes, and powered Zimbabwe to a total of 174/7, which looked unlikely at one point.
Ireland needed to get off to a good start to chase the target down but that was made impossible by Blessing Muzarabani and Richard Ngarava as the duo bowled a brilliant opening spell to get rid of their top-order. It was Ngarava who sent both Paul Stirling and Lorcan Tucker back to the dug out in the first three overs of the game. Muzarabani followed up with the wickets of Harry Tector and Andrew Balbirnie in the very next over to reduce Ireland to 22/4.
Curtis Campher (27) and George Dockrell (24) tried their best to lead Ireland’s recovery but their 42-run partnership was broken when Raza came on to bowl and cleaned Dockrell up completely. The veteran all-rounder played a magnificent knock when Zimbabwe needed it the most and now he delivered with the ball to give them a much-needed breakthrough as well. The likes of Gareth Delaney (24) and Barry McCarthy (22*) tried to get Ireland close to the target but they still fell short by 31 runs.