Zimbabwe have made it two victories in as many games to book their place in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier B 2022 semi-finals in Bulawayo.
It however had to take a determined and disciplined performance from their bowlers, in particular Ryan Burl who took three wickets, to complete a 23-run victory over Jersey at Queens Sports Club on Tuesday.
After a below-par batting performance, with the exceptions of Sean Williams and Luke Jongwe, Zimbabwe went out to field under considerable pressure, but their skill, experience and discipline enabled them to triumph in the end.
The home side again lost the toss and were asked to bat first, but they suffered a bad start to their innings.
After a wide was bowled, Craig Ervine swept the first legitimate delivery of the match, from the left-arm spinner Ben Stevens, for four, but was caught off the fifth, to make the score five for one wicket.
Williams came in at number three and immediately went on the attack, hitting Charles Perchard for three fours and a two in the second over of the innings.
However, his partner Regis Chakabva was again run out attempting a quick single, after scoring six.
Wessly Madhevere scored only a single, as he missed a sweep against Elliot Miles and was out lbw, leaving Zimbabwe reeling at 38 for three in the sixth over.
Sikandar Raza now joined Williams, who continued to attack in superb fashion, scoring off almost every delivery and racing to his fifty off only 32 deliveries.
When he reached 57, however, he too was dismissed lbw, missing a sweep off Dominic Blampied – he had faced 39 balls and the score was now 89 for four wickets in the 13th over.
This was followed in the next over by the loss of Raza, who was caught near the leg boundary for 18 off the bowling of Benjamin Ward.
Zimbabwe were now in considerable trouble at 95 for five wickets.
There was a brief respite with Milton Shumba and Burl in partnership, but first Shumba skyed the ball to be caught by the wicketkeeper for 10, and then Burl caught near the leg boundary for 11.
At this point Zimbabwe had slumped to 115 for seven wickets in the 18th over.
All the specialist batters were now gone, but Jongwe did his best for the side, and hit Julius Sumerauer for a six and a four off successive deliveries.
Wellington Masakadza was the next batter to go, caught for two off a leg-side hit in the final over, bowled by Miles.
From the final three deliveries Jongwe gallantly hit a six and two fours and thanks to his late assault, 29 not out off 13 balls, Zimbabwe were able to finish on 146 for eight wickets.
Jongwe’s runs were to prove vital for the hosts and perhaps in the end meant the difference between victory and defeat.
It was a fine bowling and fielding effort by the Jersey team, with six of their seven bowlers taking wickets, and Miles with two for 25 was the most successful.
The target of 147 was expected to prove quite challenging for an inexperienced team, but the pressure was on the Zimbabwean bowlers to ensure they did not reach it.
Harrison Carlyon scored six runs off the first over, bowled by Tendai Chatara, and then he and Nick Greenwood made eight off Blessing Muzarabani’s first over, followed by another seven off an over from Masakadza.
In the fourth over, however, Greenwood miscued a pull off Chatara and was caught at square leg by Ervine for 10 to make the score 21 for one.
Asa Tribe came in next and hit the next two balls, bowled outside his off stump, for four, so after four overs the score was 29 for one.
When the spinners, Williams and Burl, came on the batters struggled to keep the score moving quickly enough, and soon Tribe (21) miscued a pull off Burl to be caught by Madhevere at midwicket, with the score 54 for two in the 10th over.
Jony Jenner quickly went, caught by Masakadza off Burl for three – 62 for three in the 12th over, and the required run rate had now increased to more than 10 runs an over.
Burl picked up a third wicket when Stevens holed out on the midwicket boundary for three, and with the score 67 for four in the 14th over Zimbabwe now held a definite advantage for the first time.
The opening batter, Carlyon, was still there, but with 27 off 39 balls he was not able to score fast enough to meet Jersey’s needs at this stage of the game.
After 15 overs Jersey still required 69 runs in the last five overs, a very difficult task for any team.
Carlyon pulled Muzarabani for six, but the bowlers were able to bowl too many dot balls and the batting side fell further behind with every over.
Fifty runs were needed off the final three overs, 42 off the last two.
Ward, who had batted aggressively, hit Jongwe for a four and a six off successive balls, which left 28 to be made from the final over, to be bowled by Muzarabani.
Off the first ball, Carlyon was caught at the wicket for 45, scored off 56 balls, and with the batters now resigned to defeat, only four runs were scored off the over.
The final total, therefore, was 123 for five wickets, with Ward unbeaten on 35, scored off 20 balls.
The bowling of Burl did much to restrict the Jersey batters, as he took three wickets for 13 runs in his four overs, while Williams was nearly as economical, taking no wickets but conceding only 15 runs.
In their final Group A match on Thursday, Zimbabwe will face the United States of America (USA), who trounced Singapore at Bulawayo Athletic Club on Tuesday by 132 runs.
Both Zimbabwe and the USA have four points and are through to the semi-finals, but they will be fighting to finish top of the group.