Zimbabwe did not qualify for ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2024, but they did not let that disappointment get in the way of their momentous home fixture against Ireland in Harare on Thursday, December 7, 2023. The hosts ended the T20I - the first-ever international game to be played under lights in Zimbabwe - with a thrilling last-ball, one-wicket victory under their belt. (Cricket News)
Sikandar Raza was the undisputed MVP of the match as he first scalped three wickets and then struck a 42-ball 65 to almost single-handedly take his side to a dramatic win. The Zimbabwe captain, however, was the eighth wicket to fall in the 19th over, with the home team still needing 11 runs off nine deliveries.
It came down to nine off the last over and then six off three balls, when Richard Ngarava smashed a boundary. Irish all-rounder Mark Adair then came up with a catch for the ages off the penultimate ball to keep his team in the hunt, but an inside edge and a fumble by the wicketkeeper sufficed for Zimbabwe to get the necessary two runs off the last ball.
Earlier, Ireland batted first and got off to a blazing start, racing away to 44 for no loss in just 4.2 overs, before their skipper Paul Stirling was trapped leg-before-wicket. Andy Balbirnie, who had already smoked six fours and a six in his 32, was the next to be dismissed as Raza cleaned him up to apply brakes on the scoring rate.
The 37-year-old Raza also bagged the crucial wickets of Harry Tector and Curtis Campher as the Ireland innings fell apart. At one stage, they were reeling at 116/8 before Gareth Delany chipped in with a critical unbeaten 11-ball 26 to take the visitors to a fighting 147/8.
Brief scores: Ireland 147/8 in 20 overs (Andy Balbirnie 32, Gareth Delany 26*; Sikandar Raza 3/28, Richard Ngarava 2/23) lost to Zimbabwe 148/9 in 20 overs (Sikandar Raza 65; Joshua Little 2/17) by 1 wicket.