Sikandar Raza smashed his second century in as many encounters while Regis Chakabva also scored a brilliant hundred as Zimbabwe produced yet another stunning run chase to beat Bangladesh by five wickets at Harare Sports Club on Sunday and clinch the three-match one-day international (ODI) series with one game to play.
The home side continued their remarkable form with the toss and once again decided to field first.
The Bangladeshi captain, Tamim Iqbal, opened the batting with Anamul Haque against the bowling of Bradley Evans and Victor Nyauchi.
Tamim gave his side a flying start, taking full advantage of the power-play overs with one boundary after another, and was especially severe on Evans.
Nyauchi managed to keep him a bit quieter, but he ran to his fifty off only 43 balls before, two balls later, he mistimed a pull off Tanaka Chivanga and was caught by Takudzwanashe Kaitano running in from deep square leg.
This made the score 71 for one wicket after 11 overs.
Six runs later Anamul (20) followed him back to the pavilion, run out backing up as the new man, Najmul Hossain Shanto, drove a ball straight down the pitch and Chivanga deflected it on to the stumps.
Raza kept the batters under pressure with a fine spell of accurate bowling, conceding only 20 runs off five overs.
Mushfiqur Rahim, trying to push the score along as Shanto became bogged down, chose the wrong ball for a slog-sweep against Wessly Madhevere and was caught by Tony Munyonga at deep midwicket for 15 off 31 balls – 127 for three in the 24th over.
Shanto never really got going, and in the 30th over he was caught at the wicket off Madhevere for 38 off 55 balls, as he dabbed at a ball outside the off stump, with the score on 148 for four in the 30th over.
Mahmudullah and Afif Hossain both struggled to score – after 36 overs the score was 172 for four – but they did play themselves in, and now began to open out more aggressively.
The 200 came up in the 40th over, and the partnership continued to prosper, scoring ever faster until in the 44th over Afif (41 off 41 balls) played a slog-sweep off Raza straight into the hands of Chivanga at short third man – 229 for five.
Mehidy Hasan Miraz, aggressive against pace, struggled against spin and was out lbw trying to sweep Raza for 15, and in his next over Raza also had Taskin Ahmed lbw for one – 265 for seven in the 48th over.
Mahmudullah was now trying to hit out with mixed success – there were complete misses, mishits and some fine powerful strokes.
He reached his fifty off 60 balls and hit two sixes in the last two overs.
Two wickets fell in the final over, bowled by Nyauchi, as Taijul Islam was caught by Evans at extra cover for six and Nyauchi himself ran out Shoriful Islam for one off the last delivery, an excellent yorker from which the batters tried to steal a single.
Mahmudullah was left not out with 80 from 84 balls, with three sixes and three fours, and the final total was 290 for nine wickets.
Raza was the most successful wicket-taker, with three for 56 off his 10 overs, while Madhevere, with two for 40 off nine overs, was the most economical of Zimbabwe’s attack.
Nyauchi also deserves great credit, as he took one for 39 in eight overs, despite having to bowl first at Tamim and then again at the death.
Tadiwanashe Marumani and Kaitano opened the Zimbabwe innings, but suffered a bad start.
Marumani scored a single off the second ball, bowled by Hasan Mahmud, but Kaitano fell to the next, as the bowler produced a fine delivery that moved away from just outside the off stump to have the batter edge a catch to the keeper, Rahim.
Mahmud struck again in his second over, as a similar delivery accounted for Innocent Kaia, who had scored seven, making Zimbabwe 13 for two in the third over.
Madhevere came in next and tried to consolidate, but he scored only two runs off 16 balls before he attempted a desperate sweep stroke against the off-spinner Hasan Miraz and was out lbw.
Raza came in with the score 27 for three after eight overs.
He played himself in with great care, and the pair put on 22 runs in seven overs before Marumani miscued a push to leg off Taijul and popped up a catch to extra cover.
He had scored 25 off 42 balls and the score was now 49 for four after 15 overs.
Chakabva now joined Raza at the crease and they got to work by pushing ones and twos to keep the score ticking over.
Raza now began to go on the offensive, hitting Taijul for six and Mahmud for four.
Chakabva also seemed to find his true form again, and the partnership began to flourish, as between them they hit Shoriful for three fours in an over.
At 110 for four, in the 26th over, they had a narrow escape, as Raza responded late to a call for a quick single, and would have been run out at the bowler’s end had Miraz not knocked the bails off with the wrong hand.
In the next over Chakabva hit Shoriful for a big six over midwicket and Zimbabwe’s hopes were beginning to revive again – although there was still a very long way to go.
The incredible Raza brought up his fifty with a six over extra cover off Miraz – it took him 67 balls, and Chakabva by now had reached 40.
Raza followed it with another six over long-on off Taijul, and Chakabva, revelling in his regained form, was not to be outdone as he hammered four successive fours off Taskin to take the score past 150 – his fifty took him only 36 balls and he had now caught up with Raza on 57.
The 200 came up in the 38th over, when Raza had 81 and Chakabva 78 – the required run rate now was still just over seven.
They went through the eighties and nineties together, and Chakabva was on 95 when Raza hit a two and reached his second successive century, scored off 115 balls.
Chakabva, however, went one better than Raza in that in the following over, from Mahmud, he reached his first ODI century with a six over midwicket – at this stage the score was 245 for four.
By now the pair had set up a new Zimbabwe ODI record for a fifth-wicket partnership, beating the unbroken stand of 186 between Murray Goodwin and Grant Flower against West Indies on their tour of England in 2000.
Having reached his century and a partnership worth 201, though, Chakabva went on a big hit against Miraz and skyed a catch that was held by Tamim at midwicket.
He had scored 102 off only 75 balls, with two sixes and 10 fours.
Without much batting experience to come, it was now important for Raza to stay and see his team home, with his new partner being Tony Munyonga, a man of good temperament and technique.
Now 41 more runs were need in just under seven overs, and it was Munyonga who actually led the final burst for victory, although he enjoyed some outrageous luck, as the disconsolate Bangladesh team dropped him twice in the vital over.
That over was the 47th, bowled by Shoriful, in which Munyonga off successive deliveries hit two, four, six and six (both over midwicket) and one, 19 runs in total to take the score to 285.
In a desperation move, Afif was put on to bowl – both batters took a single before Munyonga seized the glory for Zimbabwe with a sweep high over backward square leg for four.
The final total was 291 for five wickets, there were 15 balls to spare, and Munyonga finished with 30 not out off only 16 balls, with two sixes and two fours.
Once again, though, Raza was the great hero of the match, seeing it through to victory with 117 not out, scored off 127 balls with four sixes and eight fours – again, deservedly, he was the Player of the Match.
Mahmud and Miraz took two wickets each for Bangladesh, for 47 and 50 runs respectively.
Zimbabwe have thus won the three-match ODI series by winning the first two matches.