Bangladesh chase 150 with ease
Bangladesh 153 for 4 (Nasir 41*) beat Zimbabwe 149 for 8 (Masakadza 56, Mortaza 2-28) by six wickets
Bangladesh kept themselves in the running for a spot in the final of the Zimbabwe tri-series, just, with a six-wicket win over Zimbabwe at Harare Sports Club. Nasir Hossain held Bangladesh's pursuit of 150 together, responding to Hamilton Masakadza's half-century with an unbeaten 41 to guide his side home with 15 balls to spare. The real credit for the win must go to Bangladesh's bowlers, however, as they scuppered Zimbabwe's charge at the death of their innings to keep the target within reach.
An aggressive start from Zimbabwe's batsmen had put the home side in a position to reach at least 160 after Brendan Taylor won his third toss in a row and, once again, decided to bat first. Zimbabwe were well-placed at 125 for 3 at the end of the 16th over, with two set batsmen at the crease before Bangladesh clawed their way back into the game.
Left-arm spinner Elias Sunny provided the breakthrough by having Stuart Matsikenyeri caught at long on for an industrious 27, and from that point onwards wickets fell regularly. The complexion of the match changed completely as Mashrafe Mortaza returned to have Masakadza caught behind, heaving at a slower ball, for 56. In the same over Elton Chigumbura's run out reduced Zimbabwe to 132 for 6 before Prosper Utseya was undone by an Abul Hasan slower ball and Graeme Cremer sliced an attempted slog to be caught in the deep off Mortaza, who was named Man of the Match for his efforts.
Zimbabwe's stumble, during which they lost five wickets for just 31 runs in the last five overs of their innings, gave Bangladesh a gettable target at which to aim and their openers, Tamim Iqbal and Mohammad Ashraful, launched the chase with gusto. Taylor opened the bowling with Prosper Utseya, the offspinner promptly being despatched for two crisp boundaries in his first five balls. Chris Mpofu's first over went for 15, and Bangladesh were flying at 25 without loss.
Bangladesh then suffered a stutter, courtesy some needlessly reckless batting from Ashraful, who was bowled attempting a paddle, and some equally casual running from Tamim. Graeme Cremer had Anamul Haque caught behind in his first over to reduce Bangladesh to a wobbly 52 for 3 in the seventh over, but Nasir Hossain then joined captain Mushfiqur Rahim in the middle and the pair set about repairing the innings.
Theirs was a watchful partnership, and apart from Mushfiqur's solitary six, their entire stand of 47 was made up of scampered ones and twos. Zimbabwe's hopes will have been briefly raised when a superb pick-up and throw from Vusi Sibanda had Mushfiqur run out for 31, but Hossain and Mahmudullah closed out the match in a flurry of boundaries. They put on an unbeaten 54 at almost 13-runs an over to keep Bangladesh's hopes alive in this series.
Earlier, Masakadza had once again provided the backbone of Zimbabwe's innings and his extraordinary run of form has now extended to a century and three fifties in his last four innings. After Masakadza lost his opening partner, Vusi Sibanda, to a run out, a partnership of 48 in 32 deliveries with his captain Taylor helped Zimbabwe to weather the early breakthrough and briefly keep the ascendancy. Taylor contributed watchful 38s in Zimbabwe's previous two wins, holding the middle order together, but with his side seemingly assured of a place in Sunday's final he chose to take the attack to the bowlers.
Taylor raced to 27 from just 12 balls but then played one shot too many, a top-edged hoick ending up in Mahmudullah's hands at deep midwicket. Taylor's dismissal meant that Zimbabwe's middle order, which hasn't really been tested yet in this series, were offered the chance for some time in the middle. Craig Ervine couldn't make anything of the opportunity, however, as his dreadful run with the bat continued when he played outside the line of a Mahmudullah straight-break to depart for a golden duck.
While Masakadza remained Zimbabwe still looked like passing 160, and he was cheered to a 47-ball fifty in the 15th over. The crowds attending the matches at Harare Sports Club have swelled as Zimbabwe racked up consecutive wins, and a particularly noisy rabble around Castle Corner kept warm on a wintry afternoon with choruses of exuberant and vocal support. Once Masakadza was prised out by Mortaza, however, they had much less cause to celebrate.