Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo
AUS v WI (1)
Hazare Trophy (1)
BDESH-W in NZ (1)
CWC League 2 (1)
NZW-U19 in IND (1)
West Indies 153 for 7 (Charles 45, Raza 3-19) beat Zimbabwe 122 (Jongwe 29, Joseph 4-16, Holder 3-12) by 31 runs
West Indies kept their T20 World Cup hopes alive with victory over Zimbabwe by 31 runs with 10 balls to spare. Though the margin speaks of a comfortable win, it was one punctuated by familiar anxieties.
It was certainly not a typical performance from the two-time champions, and as such you would not describe this as a return to form. But they toughed out what looked to be a terminal collapse in the first innings, which saw them go from 90 for 2 to 101 for 6, to post 153 for 7, and showcased their intelligence and experience in the field to defend it. Head coach Phil Simmons' criticisms of an "unprofessional" batting effort in the 42-run defeat in their opening Group B match will still ring true after this, but he will no doubt feel heartened by a defiant showing when it was needed.
Johnson Charles, a replacement for an ill Brandon King, was responsible for the solid platform that was spurned at first, with 45 and the first two sixes of the West Indies' innings. Contributions from Rovman Powell (28) and Akeal Hosein (23 not out) then repaired the damage of Sikandar Raza's fine spell of 3 for 19. But Alzarri Joseph's T20I career-best of 4 for 16 was the real difference.
Both sides made solitary, enforced changes, with Zimbabwe's the more off-setting after captain Craig Ervine suffered a mild asthma attack before the match. He was replaced by Tony Munyong, with Regis Chakabva taking over the reins, the stand-in captain looking rueful at the end. At the very least, the runs down the order after finding themselves 92 for 7 reduced the impact of this defeat on Zimbabwe's net run rate, which is back to zero.
Chakabva was the happier skipper when the heart of West Indies' batting was ripped out in a remarkable passage of play that seemed to have all but ended their World Cup hopes in the space of 12 deliveries, with the loss of four for just 11 runs. They were 90 for 2 at the start of the 13th over before captain Nicholas Pooran registered a second single-figure score in as many innings, gifting Raza with a simple caught-and-bowled for the first of his three wickets. Before the over was out, Charles was sent packing after a lack of communication with Powell left him well short of his ground at the non-striker's end. By the end of the 14th, Raza had trapped Shamarh Brooks leg before and pouched another return catch off Jason Holder.
Powell, no doubt wrestling with guilt at the nonstriker's end, set about making amends in a vital seventh-wicket stand of 47 with Akeal Hosein that got the Jamaican set into the final over. Eye in, he thumped the impressive Blessing Murzabani for two sixes within the first three deliveries, the second of which went 104m - the second-longest of the tournament so far - and took West Indies to 150.
Murzabani would win the battle, snaring the right-hander with the next delivery, skied to Richard Ngarava at cover. It was, however, a wicket the Zimbabwe quick could have had in the 18th over had Luke Jongwe held a chance at extra cover when Powell had just 12. Combined with a life given to Charles on 15 earlier when Muyonga shelled one running towards the cover boundary - again of Murzabani's bowling - the innings closed with a sense that, even with their excellence during the middle overs, Zimbabwe had missed opportunities to kill this game in the first innings.
That was painfully reinforced in the first eight overs of the chase when form man Raza became the fifth batter to fall with just 64 of the 154 target chipped away. A pace-heavy attack, led by Joseph's opening burst of 2 for 13, wrestled back the initiative after the opening two overs leaked 29. And without Raza, fresh from 82 off 48 against Ireland and looking in good order with a huge six off Odean Smith before spooning to wide mid off, boundary hitters to come were few and far between. Milton Chumba's botched slog sweep off Hosein, caught 10 yards inside the midwicket boundary by Brooks for a dour two off nine, said as much.
When Holder yorked Ryan Burl for his 50th T20I wicket, that looked the end of any real resistance from Zimbabwe. Jongwe set about a one-man rescue mission, and had Caribbean palms sweating when three of his boundaries helped find 17 from Odean Smith in the 17th. However, with the first ball of the 18th, he was bowled emphatically by Joseph, who had returned earlier to do the same to Richard Ngarava. Holder then took the final wicket, setting off on a celebratory run that spoke more of relief than jubilation.
Joseph takes centre stage
That Joseph is still only 25 after six years at international level shows just how much faith West Indies have had in his talent. That he only made his T20 debut for his country a few months ago suggests they weren't too sure about his short-form work. Now, after a tournament-reviving display for his country in his ninth appearance, one imagines he'll be in the XI for a while.
Searing pace, steepling bounce and a devilish yorker ruined Zimbabwe at the start and end of their chase. The first spell accounted for Chakabva and Tony Munyonga through high pace: the former edging onto his own stumps, the latter done straight and full having been set up with deliveries leaping on him from back of a length.
Though West Indies went on to take wickets after the Powerplay, it was a surprise not to see Joseph bowl a third in a row in the seventh. Nevertheless, Pooran's decision was vindicated with two for three in the next spell (overs 16 and 18). In a tournament where speedsters are in the limelight, four sets of broken stumps amid 16 dot balls has put Joseph centre stage.
Rag it around West Indies
Australia might not be associated with spin, but try telling that to this West Indies outfit. Or rather, try telling that to their opponents. After Scotland turned them inside out in their opening match of this World Cup, Zimbabwe did similar on Wednesday night in Hobart. The 10 overs following the Powerplay derailed West Indies' innings, with five wickets taken for just 64 runs through a combination of wicket-to-wicket lines, a pick-and-mix of lengths and a bit of swing.
The pressure maintained by Raza, left-armer Sean Williams and offie Burl created the perfect environment for this Caribbean collapse, with Charles' run out reflecting an inability to rotate the strike and the sheer panic in the middle order. Of the 109 deliveries faced from spinners this tournament, West Indies are 87 for the loss of nine, averaging 9.66.
All to play for
The ICC couldn't have planned it any better, even if the layout of this T20 World Cup isn't one most of us would plan. All four teams in Group B are on two points, presenting the mouth-watering prospect of two winner-takes-all matches on Friday. West Indies take on Ireland and Scotland face Zimbabwe, all having shown enough in the past week to make strong arguments for any of them to go through to the main event.
There is, however, the prospect of rain in Hobart, which could temper how much drama there is to be had. It also underlines how important it was for Zimbabwe to get as close as they did at the death and avoid a blowout to remain second - the last qualifying spot - ahead of West Indies by 0.275 on net run rate.
Over 19 • ZIM 122/10
Tendai Chatara b Holder 3 (8b 0x4 0x6 12m) SR: 37.5West Indies won by 31 runs
Powered by Smart Stats
Williams: 'We lost too many wickets quite early even though the asking rate was in the sevens'
There is a difference between being encouraged to play your shots and "being reckless", says the batter
Alzarri Joseph raises his game, and pace, to give WI's World Cup hopes a shot in the arm
The team needed someone or something special to bail them out against Zimbabwe, and Joseph was up to the task
Alzarri Joseph the difference as West Indies keep T20 World Cup hopes alive
A 31-run margin against Zimbabwe speaks of a comfortable win, but it was punctuated by familiar anxieties
Weather watch: High chances of rain affecting Aus vs NZ, Ind vs Pak
The weather could also affect key first-round encounters in Hobart later this week
ICC Men's T20 World Cup