Sikandar Raza's 69* Rallies Zimbabwe To 211

Sikandar Raza overcame a dry pitch and a disciplined Ireland attack to haul Zimbabwe from 139 for 7 to 211 for 9. While every other Zimbabwe batsman struggled to come to grips with a slower-than-usual Harare surface, Raza paired brain with brawn: he manipulated the fields smartly in the middle overs before providing the innings the finishing kick with muscular blows. He had arrived in the 21st over, after the dismissal of Brendan Taylor, the second-highest scorer in the innings, and ensured Zimbabwe batted their full quota of overs.

However, Raza had endured a painful start to his innings. Boyd Rankin - six feet, seven inches tall - found extra bounce from a back of a length and struck Raza on the right glove. The batsman shook that off and settled into his shot-making stride when he hit Barry McCarthy for back-to-back boundaries in the 30th over. Raza first tugged a short ball over midwicket for a six before jabbing an outside edge for four. He found good company from No. 9 Tendai Chisoro, who defended competently and belted hit three fours in a 42-run partnership for the eighth wicket - the highest stand in the innings.

Once Murtagh removed Chisoro and Kyle Jarvis in successive overs, Raza farmed the strike and ushered Zimbabwe past 200. He raised his fifty off 73 balls in the 48th over and capped the innings with three boundaries in seven balls with the pick of them being a flat-batted smash over long-on for a six. He received a rousing reception from a passionate Harare crowd, and with four spin options in their line up Zimbabwe might have been the happier side at the innings break.

Zimbabwe's innings had begun in a mood of revelry too. Opener Cephas Zhuwao had Harare's Castle Corner buzzing with a brace of sixes off Tim Murtagh, including one that soared over midwicket, roughly in the direction of the rugby ground. McCarthy at the other end showed off his smarts by regularly taking the pace off the ball. His first two balls were the knuckle balls but it was the offcutter that had Zhuwao holing out to long-on for 20 off 18 balls. Solomon Mire, the other opener, then ran past a non-turning offbreak from offspinner McBrine, and when Rankin extracted extra bounce to have Hamilton Masakadza nicking behind five balls later, Zimbabwe were 50 for 3 in 9.4 overs.

Taylor then showed promise when he nonchalantly forayed down the track and launched McBrine over his head and out of the attack. McBrine, however, returned and struck in the first over of his second spell to have Taylor lbw for 25, although the offbreak seemed to be heading past the leg stump.

Raza also watched Williams, Ervine - ruled run out by a tight call from TV umpire Michael Gough - and his captain Graeme Cremer fall around him, but he held the innings together brilliantly along with the tail to give Zimbabwe's bowlers something to bowl at.

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