Raza stars with bat and ball as Zimbabwe win thriller

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Harare – Zimbabwe captain Sikandar Raza starred with bat and ball as Zimbabwe beat Ireland by one wicket on Thursday in a thrilling opening Twenty 20 international of a three-match series.

Ireland posted 147-8 off 20 overs and Blessing Muzarabani hit two runs off the final ball of the match, which was the first delivery he faced, to take Zimbabwe to 148-9 at Harare Sports Club.

The spin bowling of Raza claimed three wickets, including top Irish scorer Andy Balbirnie, the recently deposed captain whose 32 included a six and six fours.

Batting at number four, Pakistan-born Raza struck 65, and his 42-ball stand was laced with two sixes and five fours.

When the skipper was caught by Ireland captain Paul Stirling off the bowling of Mark Adair, Zimbabwe needed 11 runs from nine balls to win with two wickets remaining.

The home team reached 146 when Richard Ngarava became the ninth Zimbabwe batter to fall, but Muzarabani rose to the occasion with an inside edge that eluded wicketkeeper Lorcan Tucker.

Victory completed a memorable night for Zimbabwe cricket as the match was the first staged in Harare under recently installed floodlights.

It was also a welcome change of fortune for the home team, who surprisingly finished only third at a recent T20 World Cup qualifying tournament in Namibia and were eliminated.

Zimbabwe and Ireland meet again in T20 internationals on Saturday and Sunday before a three-match one-day international series begins on December 13, with all the matches in Harare.

Brief scores

Ireland 147-8 in 20 overs (A. Balbirnie 32, G. Delany 26 not out, H. Tector 24; S. Raza 3-28) v Zimbabwe 148-9 in 20 overs (Raza 65, W. Madhevere 25, C. Madande 20)

Zimbabwe won by one wicket

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