A heroic innings of 101 by the Bangladeshi wicketkeeper, Mushfiqur Rahim, almost snatched the match from Zimbabwe’s grasp, but the tail collapsed around him and his was the last wicket to fall as he attempted to win the match off his own bat at the last gasp. So Zimbabwe, with three straight wins, have clinched the five-match series.
Bangladesh made three changes for this match, dropping two unsuccessful batsmen in Mohammad Ashraful and Shahriar Nafees, and also off-spinner Abdur Razzak. Zimbabwe preferred the pace of Kyle Jarvis to the spinner Raymond Price, who has not been at his best this season. Bangladesh won the toss for the first time in the series, quite an important advantage as the first hour often favours the bowlers at Harare Sports Club. They naturally put Zimbabwe in to bat on a greenish pitch, with an unusual light cloud cover on this particular day.
Runs were hard to come by early on, with the bowlers finding some help from the pitch. Brendan Taylor again failed opening the innings, slashing a catch to slip after making 4 off 17 balls, in the seventh over. Hamilton Masakadza struggled early on, but Vusi Sibanda, oozing class, scored freely when others failed, but again he failed to make the most of a fine start, choosing the wrong ball to pull and skying a catch to mid-off. He made 27 off 36 balls, and Zimbabwe were now 39 for two in the 14th over.
Masakadza and Tatenda Taibu struggled for runs, and more than once unsuccessfully tried taking a pace or two down the pitch, but without success. Finally, from the 18th over, they decided to slog their way out of trouble. Fortunately for them, it worked, although it would not have done had Taibu not been dropped off a straightforward chance to extra cover when he had 16; this was perhaps the major turning point of the match. From then on Zimbabwe’s batsmen prospered, as the bowlers quickly lost their accuracy. The hundred came up in the 27th over, and Taibu overtook Masakadza. He survived two more missed chances and reached his fifty in the 35th over, with Masakadza quickly following. The pair added 142 for the third wicket before Masakadza had a big swing and had his leg stump knocked out by Rubel Hossain for 74; he faced 100 balls and hit four fours and two sixes.
Bangladesh continued to drop catches, and it was a real surprise when Rubel Hossain pulled off a brilliant low catch at fine leg to send back Taibu for 83 (103 balls, eight fours). Zimbabwe were now well past 200, and finished with 250 for seven, thanks to a dynamic 31 off 21 balls, including two sixes, from Elton Chigumbura. This was no easy task for Bangladesh, and the odds were on Zimbabwe, especially remembering the Bangladesh batting failures in the first two matches.
The Bangladesh openers faced Brian Vitori, partnered this time by Kyle Jarvis, with more confidence than before, looking to run quick singles, and when they reached 10 they had recorded their best opening stand of the series to date. Vitori strayed on to the pads too often and after three overs Taylor replaced him with Mpofu; with Vitori out of the attack, the batsmen grew bolder. The 50 came up in the eleventh over, showing how much Zimbabwe rely on an in-form Vitori. Then without addition Imrul Kayes was trapped lbw by Prosper Utseya for 16.
Tamim Iqbal rather dried up on losing his partner. Junaid Siddiqui hit a return catch to Utseya when 12, but when Mushfiqur Rahim settled in runs began to flow again. The pair took the score to 91 in the 25th over when they took on Mpofu’s arm from the deep as they sought a quick second run, and Tamim was run out for 44. The Zimbabwe fielding performance on the whole was rather patchy, with some good work like this being done, but a five was given away through an overthrow and some difficult chances were missed.
The partnership between Rahim and Shakib was vital for Bangladesh. They batted well together but slowly the required run rate rose to seven an over. Shakib, the more aggressive of the two, made 19 off 22 balls before he hit a low return catch to Utseya, a major blow in Zimbabwe’s favour. The debutant Shuvagoto Hom supported him well, but Zimbabwe were now fielding superbly and the required rate slowly increased; however, the longer the partnership lasted, the greater was the chance of Bangladesh being able to make a strong finish – especially with a powerplay yet to come. At 42 overs the score was 185 for four, but then a mix-up in running saw the end of Hom, for an impressive innings of 32 off 36 balls.
Mahmadullah proved another capable partner and the two kept the required rate at about nine an over with their powerful hitting and quick running. Vitori returned, but today he was reduced to an ordinary bowler and ten came off his over. 31 were needed off the last four overs, with five wickets in hand, and the match was Bangladesh’s for the taking. With his final delivery of the match Vitori took the wicket of Mahmadullah, holing out at long-on for 14 off nine balls, but his figures of one for 45 were a comedown from the heights.
Bangladesh suffered another blow when Nasir Hossain was caught second ball, but Rahim was still there. 16 needed off two overs and, in the gloom, Jarvis bowled out Islam. When Rahim got to the striker’s end, though, he pulled a six over midwicket, took a single – and Jarvis yorked Rubel Hossain; 243 for nine. This brought Rahim to face the final over, from Mpofu, needing 8 for victory, amid extreme tension. He took two off the first ball to reach the century he richly deserved, and aimed to hit the next for six to end the match. But for once, vitally, he miscued, and long-on Sibanda running in took a very tense catch. Zimbabwe had kept their nerve and fought back when all looked lost in the final overs, but for Bangladesh it was a bitter pill to swallow.