Zimbabwe beat listless WIndies

Zimbabwe, for all their political and cricketing troubles, secured a memorable win and romped past West Indies in the first one-day international at Harare. Previously they had not won a one-day international against a major Test nation since 2003. But four years on, Zimbabwe rose to the challenge again, ironically defeating the same opposition at the same venue. West Indies lacked spirit and discipline, as is so often the case these days, and the underdogs Zimbabwe reveled in their status and starred with both bat and ball in victory by 30 runs.

Only Shivnarine Chanderpaul stood his ground for West Indies and stood proudly unscathed despite the desperate result. His 127 came unbeaten and gave his team some measure of hope even in the late overs when Zimbabwe looked the clear favourites. It was a hope unrewarded, despite the brilliance of the innings.

There was no such grand centurion for Zimbabwe and no tearaway performer with the ball. Instead it was a true team effort – the sum of many contributions – that guided the African minnow home. Chamu Chibhabha, the gutsy 21-year-old right-hander, chipped in a top score of 73 for his team, but four others crossed 25 in a promising total of 274. Chibhabha made a small name for himself with some solid performances on Zimbabwe’s ill-fated tour of the Caribbean last year, and continued to enjoy the West Indies challenge with 9 fours and a six in his innings. He was faced with loose and listless bowling, too likely to err in offering width. Continually he struck the ball through the covers and played with the fluency demanded against such substandard bowling. Chris Gayle won the toss and chose to bowl in helpful conditions, but it was hardly evident in the West Indies’ manner of execution.

Brendan Taylor set things off swiftly with 27 from 30 balls, with four boundaries. And Stuart Matsikenyeri turned up the heat at the end, scoring 55 from 40 balls and following on from handy the handy contributions of Masakadza (36) and Chigumbura (38). Ultimately Zimbabwe gathered 81 runs from the final 9 overs, accelerating at will and commanding the opposition attack. There seemed little separation between the mediocrity of the West Indies bowlers, though Ravi Rampaul boasted figures of 7-1-28-0 amidst the relative carnage.

And much like the bowling effort, the batsmen were careless and incompetent against an admirable Zimbabwe. Captain Gayle spooned a catch to Chigumbura with 2 to his name, and West Indies missed the brisk start they required in the chase. Chanderpaul entered, up for the fight, but his intensity was never matched by any of his partners. Devon Smith (5) and Marlon Samuels (25) laboured far too long for their contributions, then inevitably departed cheaply. Runako Morton seemed to disregard the asking rate in favour of caution, favouring dot balls to urgency, and the requirement mounted for West Indies.

Chanderpaul gained a life on 67, dropped by Vusi Sibanda, and continued largely unphased toward his hundred. But the Zimbabwe spinners – skipper Prosper Utseya and the veteran Ray Price – dominated the middle overs, squeezing the batsmen and creating pressure from hardly anywhere. There was little rotation of the strike as required and a gross miscalculation of the demands at hand. Morton in particular seemed oblivious to the notion of a clever run chase, making things far more difficult than they should have been with his crawl. Having faced 74 balls, Morton could only manage the total of 54, even as West Indies needed well over a run-a-ball for victory.

As the requirement spiraled upward and past 16 per over, even the powers of Chanderpaul seemed irrelevant. A 116-run partnership was ended by Chibhabha; Morton bowled. And Zimbabwe romped home with four more wickets in the panic of the chase.

Zimbabwe 274-8 (50 overs)
CJ Chibhabha 73, S Matsikenyeri 55, E Chigumbura 38
CH Gayle 2-35, DJ Bravo 2-68

West Indies 244-8 (50 overs)
S Chanderpaul 127*, RS Morton 54, MN Samuels 25
E Chigumbura 3-25, CJ Chibhabha 2-64

Zimbabwe won by 30 runs.
Cricket Web Man of the Match: CJ Chibhabha

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