Zimbabwe clinch famous win
Exactly four years and four days after they had last beaten a major Test-playing team, Zimbabwe turned the clock back at the same venue, and against the same opposition. What must have seemed like a gentle start to their African tour turned into a nightmare for West Indies, as Zimbabwe pulled the rug from under their feet during a stunning 30-run win in the first ODI of the five-match series in Harare. The match was set up by a spirited batting performance, which gave them a challenging total of 274, before the bowlers stifled the runs so effectively that West Indies fell short despite Shivarine Chanderpaul's unbeaten 127.
The game was astonishing not just for the result, but also for the manner in which it came about. This wasn't a victory brought about by one batsman playing a blinder or a bowler bowling a dream spell: five batsmen scored more than 25 to propel Zimbabwe's innings, while most of the bowlers showed outstanding control, with Prosper Utseya and Ray Price - back in the team after more than three years in the wilderness - being exceptional in the middle overs. It was only their second ODI win in their last 23 games, and the celebrations after the game indicated just how much the win meant to them.
West Indies, on the other hand, were utterly listless and lacking in intensity. They got the opportunity to bowl in helpful conditions after Chris Gayle won the toss, but made a meal of it, offering the batsmen too much width and plenty of run-scoring opportunities. The batsmen emulated the bowlers - Chanderpaul played a lone hand, but even he showed a strange reluctance to step it up. The rest of the cast was mediocre. Marlon Samuels played 49 balls for 25, while Runako Morton played dot ball after dot ball even as the asking-rate mounted. It would have been even worse for them had Vusi Sibanda not dropped Chanderpaul on 67.
An asking rate of 5.50 meant West Indies needed a strong start, and a major contribution from Chris Gayle, but neither happened. In the third over Gayle tried to play to leg, was too early on the stroke, and spooned a simple catch back to Elton Chigumbura. The fight, it seemed, went out of the innings right there. Chanderpaul kept them in the game by rotating the strike and bludgeoning the rare meaty blow - eventually getting to his eighth ODI century - but never did it seem the innings would be a match-winning one.
While West Indies were utterly insipid in the middle overs of the run-chase, Zimbabwe tightened the screw superbly with two impeccable spells by Utseya and Price. Both bowled in tandem, completed their ten overs on the trot, and conceded a combined total of 86. Even as the overs slipped, West Indies - and especially Morton - batted on seemingly oblivious to the target that had to be chased down. By the time the 118-run partnership was finally ended, the asking-rate had climbed to almost 16 per over, and any salvage operation was virtually impossible.
West Indies' effort with the bat had been equally uninspiring earlier in the day. Brendan Taylor started the onslaught for Zimbabwe with a 30-ball 27 and Matsikenyeri took charge at the death with a 40-ball blitz that fetched 55, as 81 runs came off the last nine overs.
The platform for that late charge was laid by a 90-run fourth-wicket partnership between Chibhabha and Hamilton Masakadza. Taylor's early blows ensured Zimbabwe had early runs on the board but his run-out, and the cheap dismissals of Vusi Sibanda and Tatenda Taibu saw Zimbabwe slump to 78 for 3.
Chibhabha rescued the innings with some sensible batting, knocking the ball into the gaps and crashing fours through cover and point whenever offered the width. Masakadza played an excellent supporting act till he played across the line off Gayle and was trapped in front. Chibhabha had fallen in Gayle's previous over but the presence of two new batsmen towards the end of the innings did little to halt the momentum, as Matsikenyeri and Chigumbura turned it on in style, clouting leg-side boundaries as West Indies lost the plot with the ball and in the field. At the halfway stage, Utseya would have been satisfied with the morning's work. As it turned out, the afternoon got even better.
S Rajesh is stats editor at Cricinfo