Sikandar Raza and Innocent Kaia both hit brilliant hundreds as Zimbabwe took a 1-0 lead in the three-match One Day International (ODI) series against Bangladesh with an emphatic five-wicket win in the opening match at Harare Sports Club on Friday.
The victory was Zimbabwe’s first against Bangladesh in nine years as they continue their revival since the appointment of legendary former national team captain Dave Houghton as the new head coach recently.
Zimbabwe, chasing a target of 304, were all but out of the game at six for two when Kaia came to the crease.
He shared a 58 run partnership with Wessley Madhevere before the latter was run out for 19 which left Zimbabwe in danger at 63 for three in the 14th over.
But superb fourth-wicket stand of 192 between Raza, who finished unbeaten on 135 off 109 deliveries and Kaia (110 off 122balls) steered the hosts to a famous win with 10 balls remaining.
Despite upstaging the higher-ranked Bangladesh side 2-1 in the preceding T20I series, Zimbabwe still came into the ODI series as second favourites on paper having failed to register a victory against the Tigers in 19 successive ODI encounters dating back to May 2013.
However, Zimbabwe had other ideas.
After winning the toss and electing to bowl first, Zimbabwe kept the Bangladesh batsmen in check despite not taking wickets regularly.
Opener Litton Das top scored for Bangladesh with 81 from 89 deliveries before he retired due to injury while his fellow opener managed 62 from 88 as they gave their team a good start following an opening partnership stand of 119 runs.
Anamul Haque scored a quick-fire 73 from 62 balls while Mushfiqur Rahim finished unbeaten on 52 but despite having wickets in hand Bangladesh did not finish strongly as anticipated, scoring just 39 runs in the last five overs to finish on 303 for two in their allotted 50 overs.
In reply, Zimbabwe got off to a difficult start after stand-in skipper Regis Chakabva chopped a Mustafizur Rahman delivery on to his stumps for two runs in the first over before Tarisai Musakanda skied Shoriful Islam to cover in the next over.
When Wesley Madhevere was run out after a promising stand with Kaia it seemed as if Zimbabwe’s hopes were all but gone.
However the duo of Raza and Kaia helped Zimbabwe out of the rut and into the driver’s seat. Cheered on by a boisterous home crowd which created a carnival atmosphere at Harare Sports Club, the duo kept going, pushing down the required rate with a perfectly-paced partnership.
Kaia completed his maiden ODI ton while Raza compiled his fourth as the duo put on a 192-run partnership, the third-highest ever for Zimbabwe in ODIs. Hamilton Masakadza and Raza himself hold the record for the highest stand (224 runs) against Afghanistan in 2014.
Even when Kaia was eventually dismissed for 110, Zimbabwe were well on course to seal the game. Raza remained unbeaten on 135 as Zimbabwe registered their first win against Bangladesh in their 20th attempt.
This was also Zimbabwe’s second win in 2022, having beat Sri Lanka in Pallekele in January this year and they will be hoping their third win doesn’t take as long as they prepare to face Bangladesh in the second ODI at the same venue on Sunday.
The two sides are also expected to meet in the third ODI at Harare Sports Club on Wednesday before Zimbabwe host India for three ODIs and later embark on a tour of Australia for three more ODIs.