Zimbabwe met with unexpectedly strong resistance from Hong Kong, in the 2016 World T20 opener at Nagpur, in a Group B encounter. But, they brought in their experience into play to clinch the match by 14 runs. After Hong Kong won the toss, and chose to field, Zimbabwe posted a challenging 158 for 8 on the board, Vusi Sibanda top-scoring with 59 while Elton Chigumbura provided the final push with an unbeaten 30 from 13. In reply, opener Jamie Atkinson came up with an impressive fifty for Hong Kong, but Donald Tiripano and Tendai Chatara claimed two wickets each to ensure Zimbabwe began with a win.
Zimbabwe got off to a blazing start as skipper Hamilton Masakadza blasted three fours and a six, racing to 20 from 12, before being run out, Sibanda got three fours off a Haseeb Amjad over, but wickets kept falling from the other end. Richmond Mutumbami went for a third-ball duck as Hong Kong hit back. The big wickets of Sean Williams came as the batsman played on to Tanwir Afzal for 12. Sikandar Raza was run out for three, going for a non-existent run. At the halfway stage, Zimbabwe were struggling at 77 for 4.
Sibanda got to his maiden T20 fifty by dancing down the track, and smashing Nadeem Ahmed over long-on. He was to crack one more six over long on. He was involved in a steadying stand with Malcolm Waller. But, the 17th over bowled by Aizaz Khan saw both Waller and Sibanda departing – Waller cut a slower ball to sweeper cover for 26 while Sibanda’s innings ended as he completely mishit a full-toss. Chigumbura, however, smashed three sixes in the last two overs to snatch back the momentum.
In response, Hong Kong lost Ryan Campbell, making his T20 debut at the age of 44 (now the oldest) early, as he dragged Trirpano to mid-on. Wellington Masakadza then trapped Babar Hyatt leg before as the batsmen failed to connect with a sweep. Mark Chapman and Atkinson held fort for a while, but on 19, Raza had him caught, the full toss again doing the trick. Atkinson, meanwhile, looked in control at the other end. He took on Chatara, and hit him for a four and two sixes in the 16th over to keep Hong Kong’s faint hopes alive. He was dismissed by Tiripano, deceived by a slower ball, as Zimbabwe pushed ahead.
Going into the last three overs, Hong Kong needed 39 from 18 balls, with six wickets in hand. Afzal delivered some big blows, ending up on 24 for 12. But, he found no support from the other end, as Chatara got wickets off consecutive balls. In the end, in spite of Hong Kong’s tough fight, Zimbabwe were good enough to stay afloat.
--By A Cricket Correspondent