Bangladesh 228 for 9 (Nafees 69, Mushfiqur 42) beat Zimbabwe 214 (Sibanda 64) by 14 runs
Bangladesh fought back to take a 2-1 series lead at Harare after Zimbabwe had appeared on course for victory. Vusi Sibanda's 64 put them in control, but the middle order became bogged down and the last five wickets crashed for 12 runs. In was an impressive turnaround from Bangladesh, who stuttered with the bat but recovered to post a defendable 228 for 9.
As in the second match, Sibanda and Terry Duffin combined with a sizeable opening stand and took a large chunk out of the chase. They tucked into some loose offerings from the Bangladesh attack, especially Mohammad Sharif whose first over cost 16.
As so often is the case Bangladesh's breakthrough came from spin as Duffin advanced too early at Abdur Razzak and was comfortably stumped. Without the injured Mohammad Rafique, out of the remaining matches after hurting himself in the second ODI, the pressure was on Razzak and he responded with a tight spell.
The middle order couldn't force the pace, especially Hamilton Masakadza who fell for a painful 6 off 21 deliveries, which left the onus on Sibanda. He played beautifully off front and back foot and it took an outstanding catch by Habibul Bashar at mid on to remove him. It was the turning point for both sides.
Sean Williams and Brendan Taylor succumbed to huge mix-ups in the running but Keith Dabengwa and Elton Chigumbura kept Zimbabwe in the hunt, and at 202 for 5 they were just a few blows away. However, Dabengwa swung across the line and lost his leg stump and Chigumbura drove a low full toss to long on. The bowlers couldn't find the rope and 18 off the final over was never on the cards. Although Bangladesh weren't at their best, three of the run outs came from direct hits and they made a crucial difference.
Still smarting from their drubbing on Tuesday, they made three changes but their start was again poor. Under grey skies, they had an immediate let off when Tamim Iqbal, making his international debut, was dropped by Sibanda at second slip off the first ball of the match although he soon fell as a wild slash to third man was brilliantly caught by Gary Brent.
All that was needed was for Bangladesh to play with caution against the seaming ball and wait for one of the many bad deliveries to put away. However, they showed little inclination to do that. In the ninth over Chigumbura had Saqibul Hasan driving loosely at one that moved away, and with little footwork all he managed was an edge to Taylor.
Whereas on Tuesday the innings sunk without trace, this time Shahriar Nafees and Mushfiqur Rahim dug in and after stopping the slide, they proceeded to open up as the gloom descended. The pair took the score to 136 for 3 in the 32nd over, but Zimbabwe struck back with three quick wickets, the collapse set in motion when Rahim pulled Brent lamely to midwicket. Nafees, who had started slowly before opening up, played some neat drives but fell tamely, deceived by slower flighted ball from Dabengwa which he tried to turn to leg only to spoon a leading edge to mid-on.
Bashar remained, maintaining a steady run-rate despite a short break when the drizzle became too heavy. With Mortaza, who hit two big sixes, he added 51 for the seventh wicket, before Mortaza played over a yorker. Bashar perished to a run-out soon after, but the tail wagged to vital effect. Those precious extra runs made the difference, although Zimbabwe will feel this is one that slipped away.
The turnout was not disappointing with a game during the week when most people are at work with about 1500 having turned out, but many were schoolkids. The crowds are expected to increase tomorrow and the match promises to be a thriller.