Pakistan can’t seem to catch a break this edition of the ICC men’s T20 World Cup. It had another debacle in the death overs, this time against the underdogs Zimbabwe to suffer their second loss in the Super 12 round.
Zimbabwe won the toss and opted to bat first, but great performances by Pakistani bowlers reduced them to 130 for the loss of 8 wickets at the end of their twenty overs. Despite a few sparks of brilliance from opener Wesley Medhevere, captain Craig Ervine, and Sean Williams, their batting line-up failed to get going as a whole, with Williams scoring the highest at 31. Pacer Mohammad Wasim and leg-spinner Shadab Khan proved to be lethal, taking 4 and 3 wickets.
With what seemed like an easy target, Pakistan did not get off to a good start. Captain Babar Azam failed to fire once again, while Rizwan, who looked dangerous with a four and a six, could manage only 14 from his 16-ball stay. It did seem Shan Masood’s 38-ball 44 and Mohammad Nawaz’s 22 off 18 would be enough to take Pakistan home. But then the last over struck.
In stark contrast to their Pakistani counterparts against India last Sunday, the Zimbabwean bowlers as well as fielders held on to their nerves. Zimbabwe’s Sikandar Raza did well to stop a boundary in the first ball, but Wasim got back with a cracking four in the next ball. Pakistan needed 3 runs needed from 4 balls when Richard Ngarava decided to turn the heat on. Two good length deliveries outside the off stump—a single and a dot—suddenly had Pakistan chasing 3 from 2. Nawaz had had enough of the nerves and decided to let loose, ultimately landing the ball straight in the hands of Brad Evans. Another wicket gone, Pakistan now needed 3 from their last delivery. Shaheen Shah Afridi stepped onto the front foot, punched a straightish drive, and ran for it. But Sikandar Raza—the eventual Man of the match with his three timely wickets—was having none of it. A swift throw, a fumbling collect by wicketkeeper Chakabva, and Pakistan had lost the match by a single run.
The upset brings Zimbabwe into the top 3 in Group 2, tied at 3 points with South Africa, but trailing in net run rate. India leads the group with 4 points, after their emphatic win against Netherlands earlier in the day.
Winning the toss and choosing to bat first, three of India’s top batsmen fired at will, each scoring more than half a hundred runs: Rohit Sharma (53), Virat Kohli (62), and Suryakumar Yadav (51). Yadav was awarded the man of the match award.
Defending a target of 179 (for a loss of 2 wickets), Indian bowlers fired on all cylinders, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh, Axar Patel, and R Ashwin each scalping 2 wickets. Shami chipped in with a ninth.
With the second round of matches done for Group 2, the eyes are back on Group 1 as teams begin round 3 of their Super 12 clashes. Old rivals England and Australia are set to clash today at MCG, in what will prove to be an effective eliminator. Earlier, Afghanistan will face Ireland on the same ground, in a clash of minnows.