Craig Ervine, whose maiden ODI hundred drove Zimbabwe to a famous win against New Zealand, has said he scented victory during the last eight overs of the hosts' chase though they needed over nine runs an over.
Though Zimbabwe were always largely on track during their pursuit of 304, doubts remained if the team could actually go all the way: the hosts had previously chased a 300-plus score only once, and in recent months have fallen short during the final stages of matches despite competing earlier on.
However, even with 72 needed from 48 balls, Ervine and his partner at the other end, Elton Chigumbura, did not panic, keeping the score ticking with ones and twos, and putting the bad deliveries away for boundaries.
"Maybe started believing that we could win in the last seven or eight overs," Ervine, who was named Man of the Match, said. "I thought if we could go at eight or ten an over and try to take it as deep as we can, we would always have a chance to go over the line. It was about taking it ball by ball and not thinking too much about the end result."
Ervine said the win was particularly "special" for him since he was able to stay unbeaten till victory was secured. From 32 previous ODIs, Ervine had made six half-centuries, but could not convert any of them into a hundred. Today, after making a steady start, Ervine accelerated as the innings wore on and as the situation demanded, finishing with a 108-ball 130, including 11 fours and five sixes.
"I thought the wicket was really good [to bat on], whereas against India it misbehaved maybe due to the dew. It feels very good, especially to be there at the end to take the team home, it's something special. There was a bit of a tough period during the game when I slowed down in my nineties, but thankfully Elton batted really well to take the pressure off me."
Going into the match, Zimbabwe had won just one ODI in 2015, and lost 10. They had also suffered defeat in 15 of their last 17 one-dayers in Harare, and were beaten by New Zealand in nine of their last 10. Given the odds were stacked so high against them, Zimbabwe captain Chigumbura was very pleased with the effort.
"It has been a hard road for us," Chigumbura said. "This result shows that we're still capable of winning games. I want to thank everyone who has been behind us during the hard times. Hopefully we can carry this on to the next couple of games.
"Chasing 300 is always difficult, but I felt it was good wicket to bat on. The foundations were good from Hamilton [Masakadza] and Chamu [Chibhabha] who showed the way, and we had a very good performance from Ervine to take us home."