Zim Cricket Secures World Cup Qualifying Berth
A second-wicket partnership of 66 between Sharne Mayers and Chipo Mugeri-Tiripano rescued Zimbabwe Women from a difficult start and propelled them towards an eventual 50-run victory over Namibia Women in the final of the ICC Women’s Qualifier Africa 2019 played at Harare Sports Club on Sunday.
As expected, Namibia provided a sterner challenge for the Zimbabweans than they had encountered before, but in the end their superior play proved too much for their gallant opponents, who made the fatal mistake of allowing the required run rate to get on top of them as they chased their target of 115.
The weather was rather cooler and cloudier than it had been during the previous week, and Namibia, on winning the toss, decided to put Zimbabwe in to bat.
Zimbabwe soon found Namibia a much more cunning and astute team than any they had played earlier in the tournament.
On the big occasion, Zimbabwe’s star opening batter Modester Mupachikwa seemed perhaps a little nervous, as she drove her first ball, from Sune Wittman, uppishly and mid-on just failed to hold a difficult chance; she took two runs.
Mayers also got off the mark with an uppish stroke through the covers off her third ball, but it travelled for four.
Wittman kept Mupachikwa quiet by bowling just wide of the off stump, and the batter found difficulty in getting her bat to them.
The left-arm spinner Maryke Short also bowled well from the other end and the batters found it difficult to score with the tight field placing.
Eventually, Mupachikwa went for a big hit against Wittman and dragged the ball on to her stumps; she had managed just four runs off 16 balls and the score was 14 for one-off five overs.
The bowlers’ policy was clearly to bowl most deliveries as far outside the off stump as was permitted, and Mayers and Mugeri-Tiripano had to do a lot of chasing the ball.
The batters finally began to work out how to play the bowling and gained in confidence, and an occasional error in the field helped them.
Mayers on 18 drove a ball straight back at the bowler, Wilka Mwatile, who dropped the chance, while another one went down at the backward point.
After 10 overs the score had reached 47 for one, and the fifty came up in the following over.
The pair took the score to 80 in the 15th over before Mugeri-Tiripano, watching the ball instead of her partner as Mayers drove to mid-off, was run out for 36, a disappointing end for a fine inning off 28 balls.
Mayers also left in the following over, driving a catch to long-on off the bowling of Kayleen Green; she scored 36 off 44 balls and the score was now 86 for three.
Without addition Mary-Anne Masondo went for four, slicing a ball from Irene van Zyl that was very well caught low down at short third man by Short.
The hundred came up in the 19th over, and in the final over, at 107, Josephine Nkomo (14 off 10 balls) drove a catch to long-on.
In the final over, with Anesu Mushangwe and Ashley Ndiraya running for everything, Namibia missed two clear run-out opportunities.
The innings closed at 114 for five, with these two batters not out with 12 and one respectively.
At this stage, it could not be said which side held an advantage, but the Zimbabwe score would have been considerably lower had Namibia fielded better.
Of the Namibian bowlers, Green took two wickets for 22 off three overs, while Wittman took one wicket for 15 runs in her economical four overs.
Namibia opened their batting with Adri van der Merwe and Green, the former hitting the first ball, a very poor leg-side full toss from Nkomo, for four, and seven runs came off that over.
Nkomo did not bowl well to start with, but in her second over she produced a straight ball that went right through Green and bowled her for one; 10 for one.
Tasmeen Granger came on and took a wicket with her second ball, as van der Merwe sliced a catch to backward point, where it was safely held by Nomvelo Sibanda; 15 for two.
Sibanda bowled the next over herself and, after conceding a single to Yasmeen Khan, dived to pick up a fine low return catch from van Zyl (0); 16 for three.
Yasmeen Khan and Wittman decided to play safe for a while, but after 10 overs, when the score was 35 for three and eight an over required, Namibia were in danger of sinking into an inescapable quagmire.
Mushangwe missed a possible return catch from Wittman, who hit an occasional powerful blow, but Khan, whose 11 runs took her 26 balls, attempted a leg hit off her and skyed a catch to Mugeri-Tiripano at square leg.
At 45 for four in the 14th over, the required run rate was now over 11 and Namibia were in deep trouble; from the last five overs, they needed 68 runs.
Wickets now began to fall, and the Namibians tried desperately to recover lost ground.
Mushangwe bowled Short for one and then trapped Anasta Diergaardt lbw without scoring.
The team fifty came up in the 17th over, but it was far too late.
Wittman finally skyed a catch to Musonda at extra cover off Granger after scoring 18 off 43 balls; 51 for seven in the 18th over.
Mwatile, in at number nine, hit out powerfully, scoring successive fours off Sibanda, but she was bowled for nine.
Two wickets fell in the final over before Zimbabwe were able to celebrate a well-earned victory in front of an enthusiastic crowd of several hundred.
The final total of 64 for nine was 50 runs short of Zimbabwe’s total, a larger margin than had been expected for most of this match.
Nkomo recovered enough after a bad start to take the last two wickets and finish with figures of three for 12; Mushangwe took three wickets in the middle order for just six runs, and Granger had two for only seven runs in her four overs.
This victory, however, does not mean the Zimbabwe Women will go straight to the ICC Women’s World Cup: there is another qualifying tournament, the ICC Women’s Qualifier Global competition against other continental regional winners, to go through first.
It would be remarkable if they were to go on to win that tournament as well, but whatever happens to get there was a fine achievement and a great cricketing experience for Zimbabwe’s top women cricketers.