HOBART: Zimbabwe skipper Craig Ervine revealed that the takeaway of bowling fuller lengths from seeing Ireland's bowling in the first innings of their Group B first round match of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup at the Bellerive Oval came in handy during their successful defence of 174/7.
On a cold Monday evening and pitch which had something for the fast bowlers apart from extra bounce, Zimbabwe's new-ball pair of Blessing Muzarabani and Richard Ngarava took four wickets in the power-play as Ireland were reduced to 22/4 in the fourth over. Though runs came, Ireland were restricted to 143/9 in 20 overs as Zimbabwe won by 31 runs.
"What we took from the Ireland innings was to get slightly fuller. We thought Ireland bowled too short at times. Credit to Richard and Bless for hitting their straps and hitting that perfect length. It was difficult to hit through the covers on the up and it wasn't that short. Those were the wickets that we got caught behind," said Ervine in the post-match presentation ceremony.
Ervine had some special praise for all-rounder Sikandar Raza, whose fine 82 helped Zimbabwe get 174/7 in 20 overs. "He's been a solid performer for us over the last few months and it's exciting to see that he can bring that form here again. Different conditions, bouncier wickets but it didn't change his form so credit to him. He played exceptionally well today."
Ervine was happy over Zimbabwe making a winning return to T20 World Cup fold after featuring in the 2016 edition, but was a little sad over not bowling out Ireland apart from few catches dropped in the fag end of the innings.
"We're ecstatic. To put in a performance like that in the first game back in the World Cup, we showed we belong and it's a pity that it has been so long since we last played in a World Cup."
"You always know in a competition like this that run rate could be a possibility at the end so we wanted to finish it off as quick as possible. So it was a little bit disappointing not to finish it off but credit to all the guys coming out and putting up a great performance."
Raza, named Player of the Match for his all-round show (1/22 in three overs of his off-spin), revealed what he said to Sean Williams in their stand of 42. "The only thing I said to Sean was let's try to take the team as far as we both can. I just wanted to bat. I didn't want to let any emotions to get the best of me. The best way to get out of that situation was not to let emotions get the better of me. I just wanted to time the ball well and take it from there."
Raza's knock of 82, laced with five fours and as many sixes at a strike-rate of 170.83, took Zimbabwe to their highest score in their history of T20 World Cup participation. "I thought the wicket got harder, or I got tired, the second phase of my innings was poor. When they were bowling length, it was very tricky to get going. I was just trying to get into positions to pull, cut and hook. All I was thinking was that if they don't miss their target, I have to do something," he added.
In 16 T20I innings this year, Raza has made 598 runs at an average of 42.71 and strike-rate of 154.72, with his 82 being the fifth fifty in shortest format of the game in 2022. His run in 2022 is nothing short of glorious, amassing 645 runs in 15 ODIs at an average of 49.61 and strike-rate of 87.16, including three centuries and two fifties.
"There is no secret to be honest. The only secret I can tell you is to try to channel all the emotions of success and failure into the right way and try to complete with the best in the world so we can represent Zimbabweans and put our flag among the best in the world. We wanted to say one thing: when we qualified, as much as we were happy to be here, we knew that our journey is not done," stated Raza.
Raza concluded by saying that his focus is now on doing well in Wednesday's match against the West Indies. "We didn't just come here because we are happy to be representing Zimbabwe. The goal we brought was to get into the Super 12 and take some of the big teams and see where we go. So to have this victory today is certainly humbling, exciting and happy as well."
"But for me, once the team chat is done, I wouldn't be celebrating this victory. It's done, it's in the past. We have a very tough game against the Caribbean boys in 48 hours time and that's what I'm looking forward to now."