Zimbabwe v Bangladesh, 5th ODI, Harare March 14, 2004

Zimbabwe edge the series - but Mahmud almost the unlikely hero

The Wisden Bulletin

Zimbabwe 185 for 7 (Flower 59, Rogers 54, Mahmud 4-19) beat Bangladesh 183 (Manjural 63, Sarkar 59, Flower 3-36) by three wickets, and won the series 2-1

ZImbabwe celebrate as Bangladesh's batsmen throw away their advantage © AFP

A captain's innings from Heath Streak - and a nervousness from Bangladesh which comes from not being used to winning - enabled Zimbabwe to scrape a three-wicket victory which had seemed highly unlikely when they slumped to 124 for 6 chasing 183 in the fifth and deciding one-day international at Harare. Zimbabwe thus sneaked the series 2-1.

Twice in this match Bangladesh had the upper hand, and both times they let the advantage slip away. When they batted, Hannan Sarkar (59) and Manjural Islam Rana (63) laid a solid foundation with a 105-run opening stand only for the middle order to blow it; then when Bangladesh fielded they had Zimbabwe on the ropes and let them off.

Khaled Mahmud, in recent months usually the villain and never the hero, was almost Bangladesh's unlikely matchwinner. His career-best 4 for 19 in 10 overs ripped through Zimbabwe's innings after Barney Rogers (54) and Grant Flower (54) had taken them to 112 for 0. Mahmud's gentle medium-pace wobblers were ideal for the overcast conditions, and in the space of 31 balls Zimbabwe had been reduced to 124 for 6, with Mahmud taking 4 for 0 in ten balls.

Streak needed someone to stay with him, and Dion Ebrahim rose to the challenge. They stopped the rot, saw off Mahmud, and then took on Bangladesh's other bowlers, who wilted under the counterattack. A moment of madness from Ebrahim, who looked for a second run which was never there and was run out for 11 (154 for 7), briefly gave Bangladesh hope, but the next over from Tapash Baisya went for ten runs and the pressure was off the batsmen again. Streak and Gary Brent had overs in hand, so didn't need to take any undue risks to ease their side home.

But Bangladesh's batsmen should have ensured that they posted a total which would have removed the pressure from their bowlers. Sarkar and Manjural batted with confidence - aided by some loose bowling and a dropped catch or two - and even though Zimbabwe's spinners slowed the run-rate, there was no excuse for the collapse that followed.

Rather strangely, Sarkar decided to try to sweep everything, and there was an inevitability in his dismissal, top-edging Ray Price to Rogers at fine leg. But then the middle order self-destructed in an orgy of inappropriate shots, and from 153 for 3 Bangladesh lost their last seven wickets for 30 runs. Barring the openers, only Rajin Saleh (21) reached double figures, while the two spinners, Price (2 for 38) and Flower (3 for 36), did the damage.

So Zimbabwe came from behind to edge the series 2-1 - the first two matches in Bulawayo were washed out - but they were thoroughly unconvincing against one-day cricket's whipping boys. If Bangladesh had shown more self-belief then they could have won all three games. As it is, they go home beaten, but having made some progress against the side they have to target as the one to which they have the best chance of passing the unwanted title of the world's worst.