Zimbabwe registered their first Super 12 victory at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 after producing a terrific performance to beat Pakistan by one run in a last-ball thriller at Optus Stadium in Perth on Thursday.
It was a remarkable match in which the advantage swung from one side to the other all the way up to the very final delivery.
Zimbabwe, who won the toss and opted to bat first, made one change to the team that faced South Africa in their first Super 12 game, bringing in Brad Evans in place of Tendai Chatara, while Richard Ngarava was declared fit to play after his mishap in the mud at Hobart.
Wessly Madhevere faced the first ball from Shaheen Shah Afridi and took a three from it, followed by two fours when he had the strike again – 11 runs coming off his first three deliveries.
Craig Ervine then hit the first two balls from Naseem Shah to the boundary to make the score 22 off the first eight deliveries of the match.
The Pakistan bowlers began to tighten up, though, and at the end of the fifth over Ervine tried to pull a particularly fast bouncer from Haris Rauf and skyed the ball to short fine leg – he scored 19 off 19 balls and the score was 42 for one.
Two balls later Madhevere went, trapped lbw by Mohammad Wasim for 17 off 13 balls.
Sean Williams and Milton Shumba now had to build a stand, and they took the score to 64 in the 10th over before Shumba (8) pushed a return catch to Shadab Khan.
Sikandar Raza joined Williams and the two were beginning to get the runs flowing again when two disastrous overs for Zimbabwe followed.
In the 14th over, with the score 95, Williams was bowled attempting a reverse sweep against Khan, and off the next delivery the new man, Regis Chakabva, edged a ball that was brilliantly caught by Babar Azam at slip.
In the next over, Wasim had Raza caught after he had scored nine off 16 balls and Zimbabwe’s troubles deepened when the next ball saw Luke Jongwe playing on to his stumps.
In six deliveries, Zimbabwe’s score had gone from 95 for three to 95 for seven.
With tight bowling boundaries were difficult to come by, but Evans did well to score 19 off 15 balls before in the final over he was bowled attempting a second six off Wasim.
His partner was Ryan Burl, who was not out with 10 off 15 balls at the end.
Ngarava managed three not out and the innings closed at 130 for eight wickets.
The bowlers who did the damage were the paceman Wasim with four for 24 and the leg-spinner Khan with three for 23, both bowling their four overs.
However, with only 130 to bowl at, Zimbabwe’s bowlers fought back magnificently.
After an over each from Ngarava and Blessing Muzarabani the Pakistan openers, Mohammad Rizwan and Azam, managed only two singles, plus a wide.
They then hit a four each off Ngarava, but Evans came on and quickly had Azam (4) caught by Burl at point off a superb delivery that seamed away from him.
In the next over Rizwan (14) played a ball from Muzarabani on to his stumps – 23 for two in the fifth over.
After the six-over powerplay, Zimbabwe had restricted Pakistan to 28 for two.
The eighth over saw Jongwe come on and remove Iftikhar Ahmed for five, tickling a ball down the leg side to the keeper – 36 for three.
Shan Masood hit three early boundaries, but with tight bowling and fielding Zimbabwe made them fight for runs and after 10 overs the score was 54 for three.
Masood and Khan now began to rely on good placing for ones and twos, and the score started to rise steadily.
For several overs there were no boundaries, and then Khan got hold of a ball from Raza and hit it for six over long-on.
For a moment it looked like Pakistan were breaking the shackles, but off the very next delivery Khan tried to do it again, only to give a catch straight to Williams at long-off, having made 17 off 14 balls, and the score was now 88 for four.
Haider Ali came in, played across the next delivery from Raza and was out lbw – five down, and 43 more runs needed from the last six overs, the match suddenly well balanced again.
Masood escaped a borderline lbw decision against Evans in the next over, but was then snared by Raza, as he flicked at a faster ball down the leg side and was brilliantly stumped by Chakabva.
This was the most dangerous remaining batter out for 44 off 38 balls, and Pakistan were 94 for six in the 16th over, and in danger now.
Only three runs came off the 17th over from Ngarava, meaning 29 were needed off the last three.
Wasim top-edged a four from Muzarabani and seven runs came off the over, which left 22 off the final two overs.
Ngarava bowled next and, no doubt aiming for a yorker, produced a full toss that Mohammad Nawaz hit for six over fine leg.
Eleven runs came from that over, leaving 11 needed off the final over, which was bowled by Evans.
Nawaz put the first ball away for three and then Wasim hit four and one, leaving three runs needed off the last three balls.
Nawaz missed the fourth ball and then drove at the fifth, giving Ervine a straightforward catch at mid-off, which left one delivery with two runs to tie and three to win.
Afridi came in for the final delivery, which he hit away towards Raza at long-off – the batters went for two, as they had to do, but Afridi was easily run out and Zimbabwe celebrated one of their finest victories after a wonderful fightback.
Raza with three for 25 was the most successful bowler, while Evans had two for 25.
Muzarabani was the most economical with one for 18 off his four overs.