Comfortable victory for Zimbabwe over Bangladesh in first One-Day International
On a beautiful sunny morning at Harare Sports Club, Bangladesh unwittingly signed their own death warrant by deciding to bat against Zimbabwe. Those who have known the pitches at Harare Sports Club over the last couple of years would probably have fielded first, as the pitch tends to be liveliest at the start of a match and settle down later. The amount of rain during the past two months made it deceptively favourable to seamers, and Zimbabwe would certainly have fielded given the choice.
Blignaut bowls Akram
The result was that Bangladesh could score only 151 for eight in their 50 overs, a total that never challenged Zimbabwe who enjoyed the better batting conditions but took more than 43 overs to complete their task. This was actually a considerable recovery for the tourists after their first four wickets had fallen for 14 runs, virtually ending the match as a contest.
The most likely hope of salvaging anything from batting in these conditions would be to play safe but Bangladesh were too eager to get the score moving and paid the penalty. Heath Streak picked up one wicket and Bryan Strang two, both moving the ball sharply off the pitch, while Habibul Bashar was run out without facing a ball as the batsmen unwisely took on Guy Whittall's arm attempting a second run.
In the circumstances, Bangladesh's recovery was highly commendable. Although frequently troubled by the ball just outside off stump, Akram Khan (35) and Naimur Rahman (19) dug in to see off the opening seamers. Andy Blignaut bowled superbly, but it was David Mutendera who broke through with two more wickets. He had Naimur caught at third man and yorked Khaled Masud without scoring in the same over.
Mushfiqur Rahman then stood in the breach with Akram and the pressure gradually relaxed, but it never looked as if Bangladesh would be able to set Zimbabwe a challenging target. The home crowd generously cheered the tourists as the hundred came up with six wickets down in the 39th over. They had added 64, a new record for Bangladesh's seventh wicket in One-Day Internationals, when Mushfiqur (31) was well caught at short leg off Blignaut, and immediately afterwards Akram's gallant innings came to an end at 35, well yorked by the same bowler.
Still Bangladesh continued to fight, with Mohammad Rafique playing some powerful strokes, aided by Mohammad Sharif, but they still lack experience in scoring quickly at the death, while Zimbabwe gave nothing away. They just succeeded in reaching 150 before their time ran out.
Zimbabwe did not get away as smoothly as they would have wished, and there were signs that the batsmen were perhaps not as focused as they might have been. Mohammad Sharif secured the first wicket, bowling Alistair Campbell for five off the inside edge of his diagonal bat.
The Bangladeshi bowling was not quick but it was tight; Whittall became somewhat becalmed but Stuart Carlisle played confidently and well. When left-arm spinner Mohammad Rafique came on, Carlisle hit him for two successive sixes to take his score to 37 while Whittall was still on nine. Then he went surprisingly quiet until he prodded at Rafique and was caught at the wicket for 40 to leave Zimbabwe 73 for two.
Bangladesh celebrate the wicket of Carlisle
Whittall eventually fell for a laborious 26, caught at backward point, but the scoring rate remained at about three an over, with Bangladesh keeping it tight and Zimbabwe uninspired. The hundred did not come up until the 34th over and even Andy Flower seemed unable to get out of second gear until he suddenly swung Naimur over square leg for six twice in an over, soon after being given not out to an apparent slight edge to the keeper. The rate might have been lower but for some Bangladeshi clumsiness in the field.
Finally, with victory close, the Flower brothers opened up, taking Zimbabwe home by seven wickets in the 44th over. Andy finished on 40 and Grant 32, and Dion Ebrahim on his debut did not get a bat. Bryan Strang was adjudged Man of the Match for his fine bowling.