Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Masakadza shines in farewell game as Zimbabwe post consolation win

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CHATTOGRAM: A little over 18 years ago, Hamilton Masakadza stepped out of Churchill High School and composed a resolute hundred on his Test debut versus the West Indies in Harare. Masakadza, who had to delay his mock A-Levels to play the game, became the then youngest to score a century on Test debut. There was celebration at his school, with his headmaster, Levy Hombarume, observing that “a whole group of students came to my office and asked if they could go to the cricket”.

Years and close to two decades have ticked by since Masakadza’s fine achievement. In September 2019, at the age of 36, and leading the side, the veteran ended his international career–similar to how he began–with an impressive 42-ball 71 as he powered Zimbabwe to a consolation seven-wicket victory over Afghanistan in the Chattogram T20I.

Zimbabwe’s chances of making it to the tri-series final evaporated after they slid to three successive losses. There are troubles back home with ICC suspending Zimbabwe. However, it was a day to celebrate the career of a cricketer who has contributed immensely to Zimbabwe’s cricket.

In pursuit of a slightly below par target of 156, Masakadza and Brendan Taylor provided a brisk start of 40 for the opening wicket. Taylor gave the initial impetus with a boundary and a six off Mujeeb Ur Rahman. Masakadza then took his game to elevated heights by nonchalantly sweeping the pacer Dawlat Zadran into the stands. He also hooked the same bowler for another six to put the Afghanistan under pressure.

Afghanistan needed a wicket and it was Mujeeb who made the breakthrough by inducing Taylor to loft one towards midwicket. However, the Zimbabwe skipper seemed to be on a mission in his farewell game. He continued to flay the opposition attack by lofting Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan into the stands. Eventually, with less than 50 needed for a win, Masakadza tried one shot too many and was caught at long on off Dawlat. As the Zimbabwe skipper walked back, Afghanistan’s players aptly congratulated seasoned campaigner.

Mujeeb followed up Dawlat by dismissing Regis Chakabva for a fine 39. The spinner also could have dismissed Sean Williams, but fluffed a caught and bowled chance offered by the southpaw. The small window of opportunity for Afghanistan was perhaps shut by then. Williams and Tinotenda Mutombodzi duly provided the finishing touches as Zimbabwe chased down the target in the last over.

Earlier, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (61) and Hazratullah Zazai (31) had played with a sense of fearlessness to give Afghanistan a flying start. The pair played a string of cross-batted shots to leave Zimbabwe searching for answers. Unfortunately for Afghanistan, once Zazai was removed with the score reading 83, the Asian nation lost their way, losing wickets at regular intervals. Afghanistan could manage just 48 in their last seven overs, losing seven wickets in the process.

Chris Mpofu, the tall pacer, was instrumental in the collapse by picking up a four-wicket haul. The seamer employed the short ball to good effect to trouble the opposition ranks. Mutombodzi, the legspinner, also played his part with a couple of scalps.

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