Zimbabwe have secured their place at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 after beating a gallant Papua New Guinea by 27 runs in the semi-final of the qualifying tournament at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Friday.
The hosts won the toss and as usual in this format decided to bat first.
Regis Chakabva opened the innings with Craig Ervine and soon showed his most brilliant form, hitting Semo Kamea for three successive fours in the third over and then driving Simon Atai for six.
He scored 30 off 18 balls to give Zimbabwe a flying start, but was then out lbw as he tried to hit a straight ball from Sese Bau for another six over midwicket – 38 for one.
But the assault continued, as Wessly Madhevere came in and hit the next delivery for four, while Ervine added two more fours in that expensive over to bring up the fifty in six overs.
In the following over, Ervine survived a chance to mid-off, while Madhevere hit two more fours to race to 14 off six balls.
With these two in full cry the score after 10 overs was 90 for one wicket, and another over saw the 100 appear on the board.
In the 12th over, though, Ervine swung a ball from Bau to deep midwicket where he was caught on the boundary, having scored 38 off 30 balls – 101 for two.
Sikandar Raza came in now at number four, a wise promotion considering his brilliant form during this tournament.
Madhevere continued to play some brilliant strokes until with his score at 42 he tried to hit Riley Hekure for six over long-on, only to hole out to the fielder there.
He had faced 29 balls, hitting five fours, and left with the score 127 for three in the 15th over.
This brought together the old firm of Raza and Sean Williams, and the score reached 134 for three with five overs left and the final assault at hand.
This time round, however, their stand did not flourish, as in the next over Raza tried to hit Charles Amini over long-on for six but was well caught on the boundary – he had scored 22 off 14 balls and Zimbabwe were 136 for four.
Milton Shumba joined Williams, two new batters together and now under pressure of time.
Shumba was the first to get going, swinging a ball from Assad Vala over midwicket for six and hitting 16 off the over altogether.
Runs came fast and furious now, although Williams fell to a catch at deep midwicket after scoring 22 off 11 balls, with two sixes – 185 for five in the 19th over.
With seven balls left, Zimbabwe had a total of 200 in their sights, but they just fell one run short, 14 runs coming off the final over.
Shumba finished with 29 not out off 14 balls – he also hit two sixes – and Burl, who hit his second ball for six, with 10.
It was a great team effort by the Zimbabweans – all the first six batters passed 20, with Madhevere’s 42 being the highest.
Bau was the most successful and economical of the Papua New Guinea bowlers, taking two for 32 off his four overs.
Papua New Guinea were set exactly 200 to win, a task that few thought they had any chance of challenging.
Disaster struck Papua New Guinea immediately, as Lega Siaka played the first delivery, from Richard Ngarava, into the covers and set off for a quick single, only to be run out by a direct hit from Williams.
The batters had to take great risks in an attempt to reach their target, and were most hopeful that their powerful left-handed batter Vala could take the lead, but as soon as Raza came on he bowled him for seven as he went for a big hit – 27 for two in the fourth over.
Bau was the next man to go, relying on the sweep and lbw for five as he attempted that stroke against Madhevere – 34 for three in the fifth over.
In next was Tony Ura, who launched into a fierce attack on the Zimbabwe bowlers, smashing Raza for two successive sixes, and with Amini put on 49 for the fourth wicket in just over four overs.
Luke Jongwe broke the stand when he had Amini caught low down in the covers by Ervine, making the score 83 for four after nine overs.
Ura continued his powerful assault, and after 10 overs the score was 99 for four, with Ura on 47.
Ngarava lost a great chance to dismiss the dangerous Ura when he had him caught on the midwicket boundary – off a no-ball!
The stroke brought up the batter’s fifty, scored off only 22 balls.
Ura’s firm-footed but brilliant hitting was causing Zimbabwe great concern, as he was keeping his team up with the run rate, and it was a great relief for them all when he finally attempted another great hit across the line off Williams, and was bowled.
He scored a remarkable 66 off 35 balls, with five sixes and four fours, and he left with the score on 139 for five after 15 overs.
The later batters were now left to make 61 more runs for victory off the last five overs, but they were determined to try to the very last ball.
Norman Vanua only made three, caught by Wellington Masakadza off Muzarabani, but Kabua Morea tried to emulate Ura, smashing a six and a four in quick succession.
But the task was now too great, and the last over, bowled by Ngarava, found Papua New Guinea still needing 31 runs to win.
His first ball was a yorker that bowled out Hila Vare for nine – 169 for eight.
The batters could only score three runs off the rest of the over, with Morea finishing not out with 16 off seven balls, and Zimbabwe celebrated a fine victory with some relief.
The Zimbabwe pacemen returned the best figures, with Muzarabani taking two for 24 in his four overs and Ngarava one for 23.
The spinners suffered the most at the hands of Ura, although it was Williams who dismissed him in his one over of left-arm spin, the eighth bowler used in this match.
After clinching the remaining two spots at the ICC Men’s T20 Cup World Cup 2022 to be staged in Australia in October, Zimbabwe and the Netherlands – who beat the United States of America in the other semi-final at Bulawayo Athletic Club on Friday – will now meet in the final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier 2022 at Queens Sports Club on Sunday.