Zimbabwe have caused one of the upsets of the T20 World Cup at Optus Stadium to all but extinguish Pakistan’s title hopes while keeping their own semi-final dreams alive.
The 11th-ranked T20 nation stunningly defended a modest total of 130 in a historic win which was just their second in 18 attempts against Pakistan.
It was heartbreak for Pakistan for the second time in five days after they lost a final-ball epic against arch-rivals India at a packed MCG on Sunday.
Pakistan needed three off the final ball but could only manage one with Shaheen Afridi run out coming back for a second with Zimbabwe prevailing by one run.
It looked like being a redemption story for Mohammad Nawaz (22 off 18) after his final-over shocker with the ball against India but his quickfire late cameo ended second-last ball of the match, caught by Craig Ervine at mid-off off Brad Evans (2-25 off four) who held his nerve.
Mohammad Wasim (12 not out off 13) was stranded at the other end.
Shan Masood (44 off 38) and Shadab Khan (17 off 14) got Pakistan out of early trouble a 3-36 with an important rescue mission before veteran off-spinner Sikandar Raza (3-25 off four) turned the game on its head on his way to man-of-the-match honours.
The pair put on 52 in 36 balls before Raza took two wickets in a row, the partnership-breaking scalp of Khan followed by Haider Ali who burned an LBW review before departing for a first-baller.
Raza was at it again in his next over, getting danger man Masood thanks to some slick leg-side glovework from Regis Chakabva who stumped the off-balance left-hander with Pakistan slumping to 6-94.
“I just can’t tell you how proud I am of this bunch of boys… we just kept believing,” Raza said.
After a bright start with the bat, Zimbabwe crumbled, losing 4-0 in six balls late in their innings to get restricted to 8-130.
Leg-spinner Khan (3-23 off four) and speedster Mohammad Wasim (4-24 off four) did the damage with both players on a hat-trick in consecutive overs during a jaw-dropping collapse.
In reply, Zimbabwe got rid of both openers during the power play including captain Babar Azam (4 off 9) who was out for his second single-digit score after a duck against India on Sunday.
Khan took two wickets in as many balls to finish his spell, the second thanks to a stunning one-handed catch at slip from captain Babar Azam to get rid of Regis Chakabva for a golden duck.
Wasim claimed career-best figures in his first game of the tournament but bowled a wide when going for a third consecutive scalp.
Top-scorer Sean Williams (31 off 28), who was dropped on nine and 24, sparked the collapse the previous ball when he was knocked over attempting a reverse sweep.
Former Melbourne Star Haris Rauf was another impressive performer with the ball, finishing with his most economical T20I figures of 1-12 off four which would’ve been even less if not for a dropped catch on the boundary by Asif Ali in his last over.
Brad Evans (19 off 15) and Ryan Burl (10 not out off 15) added some respectability to the total with some important late runs.
Earlier, Zimbabwe captain Craig Ervine (19 off 19) won the toss and batted first, a move which paid off early when he and fellow opener Wessly Madhevere (17 off 13) took 22 off the first eight balls including two boundaries each.
Ervine said on the eve of the match his team would look to attack the Pakistan quicks and that’s exactly what they did at the start, putting on 42 for the opening wicket in five overs before the skipper got out hooking against Rauf.
Madhevere fell two balls later after Pakistan got an LBW decision overturned off paceman Wasim, with replays showing the ball clipping the top of off stump, as Zimbabwe finished the power play on 2-47.
The final day of T20 World Cup cricket in Perth is on Sunday with a double-header featuring Pakistan and Netherlands from 3pm followed by the blockbuster India-South Africa clash from 7pm.
Source: The West Australia