West Indies completed the Group A parity cycle with a convincing win over Zimbabwe, exposing frailties in their batting when Sikandar Raza doesn’t stick around, but it may not be enough to give them a chance to stay in the contest, as rain looms.
The pitch was flat. They knew that by now, having watched Curtis Campher and George Dockrell peel off 12 an over without a sweat. But West Indies knew they couldn’t throw it away. For the first phase, they were watchful, even quiet, but they held onto their wickets in anticipation of the final push. Kyle Mayers copped a riser from Blessing Muzarabani to go for the 13, which only vindicated the steady approach. Because the fireworks would surely come, right?
It was the leg spin of Ryan Burl that first copped the treatment. After a quiet start to his spell, and an lbw shout saved only by its line of pitching, Johnson Charles unleashed one into the Tasmanian members’ deck, then followed it with two fours to the square boundaries. After nine overs and with nine in hand, the blitz was on.
But for all the good intentions of the steady opening passage, the blitz never came. Evin Lewis couldn’t join the party, and fired a simple catch to Milton Shumba right in front of the vocal Zimbabwean support. Johnson Charles then couldn’t kick on, and went two straight overs along with Nicholas Pooran without a boundary. And then it all unraveled.
Pooran was the first to go, tangling himself into an ugly position that resulted in a tame scoop back to Sean Williams. Five balls later, the hallmark of any great batting collapse – an avoidable runout of the set batter. And then Zimbabwe’s main man Sikandar Raza doubled down, first with a carrom-ball-come-knuckle-ball to trap Shamarh Brooks for nought, then another tame caught and bowled, this time from Jason Holder.
Rovman Powell and Akeal Hossein stopped the rot, but by this point they were in damage control mode, and only in the final over did they really show intent to swing out, Powell clearing two huge sixes into the embankment. The final score of 153 made for decent reading, out of context, but they had set up to go for so much more.
I’m not sure how many people have opened both the batting and the bowling in a world cup match, but Kyle Mayers will probably want to forget his attempt. In a day of slow starts, an eighteen-run opener isn’t the best way to go, as Regis Chakabva found the boundary thrice, to go with a boundary solely of Mayers’ own waywardness. The full throttle continued aver Chakabva chopped one on, as Wessly Madhevere took over the aggressor role against Alzarri Joseph. But the hyperaggression would soon prove costly, as Madhevere lost two further partners in short succession as they looked to match him.
In walked Sikandar Raza, to rapturous applause from the faithful. More applause greeted a streaky boundary first ball, as Zimbabwe’s new talisman assessed the task. Two overs later, he would have to grab it by the scruff, as Madhevere was caught sharply in the gully flashing at one. First, Raza pelted Odean Smith’s first ball 96 metres into the grass banks. Zimbabwe were still racing at 8.5 runs per over, and didn’t look like slowing down. Then, he tried it again, and skied one to mid off.
Game over? Well, no, but also, kind of, yes. The required run rate had dropped below seven, but at what cost?
Zimbabwe never re-entered the fold. Just as Raza had struggled to find partners to match him on Monday, so did the lower order struggle to find the fence. The wickets came at regular intervals, the most dramatic being Alzarri Joseph sending Richard Ngavara’s off bail 60 metres into the outfield. A late flurry from Jongwe gave the Zimbabwean support, by far the most vocal from any of these four sides, some late excitement and enough runs for them to remain in second place on run rate. But that was all she wrote, and Friday is now a direct knockout game for all four teams involve.