Zimbabwe have clinched the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier B 2022 title after they defeated the Netherlands by 37 runs in the final of the eight-team tournament played in front of a capacity crowd at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Sunday.
Sikandar Raza, so often the top scorer, starred with the ball this time round as his superb return of four wickets for eight runs inspired the hosts’ magnificent fightback to clinch the silverware.
Zimbabwe batted first, as they have done successfully in every match in this tournament, having won the toss.
As usual, the opening pair of Craig Ervine and Regis Chakabva attacked the bowling almost from the first delivery, with 12 runs coming off both the first two overs.
They put on 30 together before Logan van Beek bowled Ervine, who was beaten attempting a drive, for 10.
Zimbabwe made another change to their middle order, moving Sean Williams up to number three.
Chakabva hit his second six, but Williams had only just got off the mark when Chakabva tried a reverse sweep against Bas de Leede and was out lbw for 27, scored off 16 balls – 42 for two in the fifth over.
Wessly Madhevere came in next and pulled the first delivery he faced for four.
However, when he had scored nine he tried to hit the left-arm spinner Tim Pringle for six over midwicket, only to be caught on the boundary – 54 for three after six overs.
This brought the usually dependable pairing of Williams and Raza together to see if they could put Zimbabwe ahead once again.
Immediately they were scoring runs off almost every delivery, with two fours from Williams boosting the total further.
After 10 overs the score was 78 for three wickets.
Raza played himself in and then drove Shariz Ahmad for six over long-off, but later in that over Williams, aiming for a midwicket six, was caught near the boundary for 28 off 25 balls – 93 for four in the 12th over.
Milton Shumba scored only a single before he was deceived by a slower ball from van Beek and skyed a catch that was taken by the wicket-keeper – 98 for five in the 13th over.
Worse was to come, as off the very next delivery Raza, trying to turn a leg-side ball from van Beek, was given out lbw by the umpire for 19 off 14 balls – 98 for six.
This brought to the crease Tony Munyonga, who had replaced the injured Blessing Muzarabani in the team, to join Ryan Burl.
After 15 overs Zimbabwe were struggling at 109 for six wickets with their last two specialist batters together.
Munyonga scored seven off 13 balls but, trying a leg-side hit off a straight ball from de Leede, was bowled at 111 for seven in the 16th over.
Much now depended on Burl and he hit two fine boundaries.
Unfortunately, the new man, Luke Jongwe, failed to respond to a call for a second run from Burl, and was rooted to his crease while his partner was run out for 15, scored off 11 balls – 121 for eight in the 18th over.
This left Jongwe and Wellington Masakadza together and they struggled to keep the score moving.
Jongwe then attempted a leg-side hit to a straight ball from Paul van Meekeren, and was adjudged lbw for six off nine balls.
Zimbabwe were bowled out for 132 in the final over, with three balls to spare, as Masakadza, swinging his bat, was caught at the wicket for four off Fred Klaasen, leaving Richard Ngarava not out with one.
All the Zimbabwe batters scored at least one run, five reached double figures, but the highest innings was Williams’ 28.
Van Beek had bowled superbly for the Netherlands with his medium-pacers, taking three wickets for 18 runs in his four overs.
De Leede took two for 19 in three overs, while the four other bowlers used all took one wicket each.
Madhevere bowled the first over for Zimbabwe, off which only a wide and a single to Max O’Dowd accrued.
At the other end, Max O’Dowd hit Masakadza for a six and a four off successive deliveries.
However, Madhevere, given another over, trapped O’Dowd lbw for 12 with his first delivery, and then with his faster delivery dismissed de Leede (1) the same way with his fifth ball – two down for 17.
Stephan Myburgh, renowned as a powerful hitter, then faced the bowling and hit Madhevere and Masakadza for six in turn.
He was settling into a potentially devastating partnership with Tom Cooper when a brilliant throw from Shumba at extra cover ended it by running out Cooper for eight – 45 for three in the seventh over.
Raza kept the batters under restraint and Myburgh, taking a risk, swung mightily at a straight ball and was plumb lbw for 22 off 24 balls – 54 for four in the 10th over.
It was a superb maiden over from Raza, and at the halfway stage Zimbabwe were back in the match.
As the pressure mounted, the Netherlands captain, Scott Edwards (7), chose the wrong ball from Williams to try to sweep, lobbying a simple catch to Ngarava at square leg.
Then it was Raza’s turn again: van Beek (0) played a half-hearted reverse sweep against Raza and had his leg stump knocked back – 56 for six in the 12th over.
Pringle scored four before he went on a leg-side heave against Raza and was bowled, as the Netherlands batters seemed to sink further into panic mode and cracked under the pressure.
Klaasen came and went first ball, lbw to a spinning delivery from Raza, and the score was now 62 for eight wickets, the match now virtually lost beyond retrieval.
Teja Nidamanuru was the one man to play the bowling on merit and he was still there, but was unable to take charge and get the score moving safely again, until he lofted Burl for a fine straight six.
A six by his latest partner, van Meekeren, three balls later showed a final desperate attempt by the Netherlands to turn the match, but it was now too late.
In the following over, van Meekeren (10) was caught in the deep aiming for another six off Jongwe – 87 for nine in the 18th over.
Ngarava took the final wicket in the 19th over, a fast yorker that accounted for Nidamanuru lbw after scoring a gallant 19 off 25 balls.
Ahmad was not out with one and the final score was 95, giving Zimbabwe a great victory.
Raza’s remarkable four wickets for eight runs took pride of place in the bowling figures, while Madhevere, who started the Netherlands’ woes, had two for 15.
With one wicket for Williams, seven batters fell to Zimbabwe’s spinners.
Both Zimbabwe and the Netherlands have qualified for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 to be held in Australia starting in October.
Winning the qualifier final saw Zimbabwe securing the final Group B spot in the first round at the main showpiece alongside Ireland, Scotland and West Indies.
The Netherlands will join Sri Lanka, Namibia and the United Arab Emirates in Group A.