Zimbabwe’s hopes of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup were dwarfed to near negligibility as UAE stunned the hosts in a last-over thriller at the national capital on Thursday(March 22), securing a three-run victory. Through the majority of yet another tense, rain-truncated chase, Sean Williams gave the jam-packed Harare Sports Club a reason to remain highly vocal, only to falter at the final hurdle of providing the gratification of a vital victory.
After UAE posted 235 for 7 off 47.5 overs when heavy showers brought a halt, Zimbabwe were handed a revised DLS target of 230 from 40 overs. If the near six-an-over asking rate wasn’t enough, Mohammad Naveed threw a couple of more hurdles in Zimbabwe’s path, removing both openers – Solomon Mire and Hamilton Masakadza – for single-digit scores. Brendon Taylor entered the fray right when Zimbabwe needed a senior batsman to step in, take control and stop the game from slipping away. Taylor and Williams’s rescue work was brought to an abrupt end in the 12th over, when an arm ball from off-spinner Ahmed Raza breached the former’s defence, disturbed his stumps and stunned the audience into silence.
The next partnership – between Williams and Peter Moor – was game-defining in more ways than one. It was during the course of this stand – worth 79 runs – when Williams reached his half-century and began to score at a run-a-ball even while UAE bowlers kept things tight and didn’t let their good start slip away. Runs didn’t flow as easily off Moor’s willow, but his defiant stay at the crease – 39 off 61 – stonewalled against a possible collapse under pressure for Zimbabwe.
When Moor eventually fell – courtesy a tame uppish hit to Adnan Mufti at cover – Zimbabwe needed 106 to get off 74 balls. Sikandar Raza arrived with his big-match pedigree and took the equation down to 90 off 10 overs and 70 off the last batting powerplay of eight overs. The crowd were almost entirely on their feet, UAE held mini-conference at the bowling end and Williams seemed to be struggling with cramps as the drama of the situation heightened going into the last period of play. Rohan Mustafa conceded four wides in a 12-run over, but Qadeer Ahmed compensated for it by only allowing the Zimbabwean pair to take five singles off the next. The 50-run stand – off just 33 balls – came up but the task was far from done for the pair.
Mustafa’s second over in the powerplay period began with a six that landed on the roof, and even had a moment that could’ve been the difference between a win and a defeat for UAE. The spinner gave a second warning to Williams for backing up too early instead of going ahead and Mankading the batsman, which would’ve been well within the rules. The same over saw Raza depart for a 26-ball 34 to swing the pendulum back in UAE’s favour. Mustafa pushed Zimbabwe further to the brink of elimination in his following over, as Williams exited for an 80-ball 80 after failing to clear Amir Hayat at short fine, who took a good one-handed catch.
Even with 24 to get from the last 18, the game wasn’t beyond the grasp of the hosts. But Mohammad Naveed, UAE’s strike bowler, and Amir Hayat conceded just nine runs leading up to the final over, leaving Zimbabwe to get 15 off the last. Kyle Jarvis and Craig Ervine brought it down to six off the last ball but the latter couldn’t put away a very hittable high full toss.
UAE handled the tough situation really well towards the end, but the seeds of their maiden Super Six stage victory were sown by the success of a middle-order troika, and a really late flourish that pushed the DLS target for Zimbabwe by a few runs. After Tendai Chatara had removed opener Ashfaq Ahmed early, captain Mustafa and Ghulam Shabber scored 74 runs together to lay a strong foundation. Raza disrupted the flow of runs with a double wicket that sent both the set batsmen packing, bringing Rameez Shahzad and Shaiman Anwar to the middle. The pair took the team forward from 106 for 3 to 180 for 4 by the 39th over, leaving the floor open for the lower-middle order to push for some quick runs. UAE, though, lost the way a little after that stand was broken, before Naveed’s hat-trick of fours in the 47th over and the six in the 48th gave the team’s total the nudge it required.
Brief scores: UAE 235/7 in 47.5 overs (Rameez Shahzad 59, Ghulam Shabber 40; Sikandar Raza 3-41, Tendai Chatara 2-49) beat Zimbabwe 226/7 in 40 overs (Sean William 80, Peter Moor 39; Mohammad Naveed 3-40, Rohan Mustafa 2-56) by 3 runs (DLS Method)