Zimbabwe's star batsman Sikandar Raza shone the brightest once again as he bailed out his side, and played a crucial role in the African nation's win over Ireland on Monday. Zimbabwe outclassed the Irish side by 31 runs, to pick up their first win in Group B first round of T20 World Cup 2022.
Ireland's Andrew Balbirnie had won the toss and chose to bowl, and his bowlers duly obliged to their captain's call as they reduced Craig Ervine's side to 37 for 3, after just six overs. However, Zimbabwe’s treasure, Sikandar Raza then came into the middle and bailed out his side, as he smashed five boundaries and as many sixes.
A masterclass from the 36-year-old helped Zimbabwe to a fight-worthy total of 174/7, and in reply, Ireland could only muster up 143/9 in their respective 20 overs. Fiery bowling spells from pace trio of Blessing Muzarabani, Richard Ngarava and an all-round performance by Sikandar Raza powered Zimbabwe in Hobart.
To add on to the impressive display that African nations are putting up on the world stage, on Sunday, Namibia stood up against the Asia Cup reigning champions, Sri Lanka. With a 55-run win over the 2014 champion in group A, Namibia surprised many cricket fans across the world.
Namibia, which had impressed in the previous edition as well, recovered from 93 for six in the 15th over to post a challenging 163 for seven in 20 overs. Jan Frylinck (44 off 28) and JJ Smit (31 not out off 16) did the damage in the death overs, sharing a whirlwind 69-run stand off 33 balls to raise concerns in the Sri Lankan dressing room.
Nicol Loftie-Eaton had made a handy 20 off 12 balls after the reigning Asian champion put Namibia in to bat. The Namibian pacers, led by Ben Shikongo, wrecked the Sri Lanka top-order before bowling them out for 108 in 19 overs for a memorable win. Shikongo missed out on a famous hat-trick after removing opener Pathum Nissanka and Danushka Gunathilak off successive balls in the fourth over.
The dangerous Bhanuka Rajapaksa (20) and skipper Dasun Shanaka (29) tried to make a match out of it but the Namibians kept taking wickets. David Wiese, Bernard Scholtz, Frylinck and Shikongo ended up with two wickets each in what was a brilliant bowling performance.
Namibian skipper Gerhard Erasmus lauded his players for the special win but said the team has a bigger goal in mind. Namibia had managed to make the Super 12s in the previous edition.
“Incredible journey, last year was a special experience for us. We’ve started with a great win, but lot of work to do throughout this tournament still. It’s been a historic day for us. The opening day has been quite special but we want to kick on from here and qualify for the Super 12 stage.
“We understand the bigger picture as well. Credit goes to Pierre (de Bruyn) the way he has installed coaching to this team, one that’s a winning culture and one that sticks together (sic). With the limited resources, I don’t think there’s anyone else that could run such a tight ship,” he said.
Zimbabwe and Namibia look to cruise in into the Super 12 should they form top two in their respective groups in the ongoing round 1. The recent wins means that they have gained an advantage and will need to maintain the current form in order to join fellow African nation South Africa, India, New Zealand, Australia, England, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Should Zimbabwe and Namibia sail through to the Super 12, Africa will not have to limit their hopes on the Proteas as a total of three African nations will be competing for the highly priced short-format silverware.