Miracle Elton inspires Zim to victory
A miraculous spell of medium-pace bowling by Elton Chigumbura inspired Zimbabwe to a 12-run win over the Nashua Titans in their Standard Bank Pro20 match at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Friday.
The Titans produced their third successive hesitant top-order batting performance and Chigumbura did enough with the ball to leave their innings in tatters as he took five for 13, the best figures in the competition's history.
Chigumbura started like a house on fire with two wickets in his first over, including the key scalp of Albie Morkel, caught behind for a two-ball duck after an iffy waft at an away-swinger.
But if that wasn't bad enough, he then pulled the rug out from under the Titans' feet with a wicket with the first ball of his second over and two more in his third over.
After that incredible spell, the Titans were in dire straits on ten for five, chasing 152.
But then came an inspired innings by Roelof van der Merwe, whose 70 not out off 49 balls put the Titans back in with an unlikely shout at the death.
The 23-year-old seems to know no fear and he obviously hadn't heard the situation was hopeless.
He smashed nine fours and a six and the Titans went into the death needing 24 runs off the last two overs. Nine runs were taken off Taurai Muzarabani in the penultimate over, leaving 15 to get off the last, but the Titans' hopes finally died when Andre Nel spooned a catch to point as Chamunorwa Chibabha held his nerve well in the final over.
Chigumbura gets a spot in the top-ten of best bowling figures in a twenty20 match worldwide, while Zimbabwe also sprang a surprise by using off-spinner Prosper Utseya to open the bowling at the other end.
He took one for 19 in four tidy overs, while Muzarabani took one for 22 and looks a top-class fast bowling prospect.
Van der Merwe relied on some useful support from Heino Kuhn (14) and Aaron Phangiso (18) to ensure the crowd were on the edge of their seats at the end of the match. That sort of excitement was a far away prospect after the first five overs of the Titans innings.
Earlier, a tenacious half-century by Stuart Matsikenyeri got Zimbabwe to a creditable 151 for six after they had won the toss.
It was an admirable performance by Zimbabwe against a hardened Titans attack that gave little away, spinner Phangiso and medium-pacer Pierre Joubert being the only weak links on the night.
The Titans, led by internationals Nel and Morkel, bowled superbly at the start and end of the innings.
The gap in the middle was dominated by Matsikenyeri as he took charge with a sparkling 51 off just 29 balls, with three fours and three sixes.
Opener Brendan Taylor raked together 38 runs off 35 balls, although he errs far too often in his footwork, and Keith Dabengwa was also on-song, scoring a run-a-ball 25, including a huge six off Ethy Mbhalati that landed on the practice nets beyond the chalets.
Nel was on fire and was unfortunate not to take a wicket, but conceded just 18 runs in his four overs, while Morkel also kept the pressure on the batsmen, bowling his four overs for 27 runs.
Left-arm spinner Van der Merwe was the other star, and he was brought on to bowl the final over. He removed Chibhabha (22) and then had Matsikenyeri caught at long-on with his next delivery to finish with three for 18.