Zimbabwe hold nerve to edge WI by two runs

PROVIDENCE, Guyana: Shingirai Masakadza held his nerve in the final over to help Zimbabwe earn a two-run victory over West Indies in the first One-day International here on Thursday.

Masakada, on his ODI debut, collected three wickets - two in the final over - for 36 runs from three overs, as Zimbabwe successfully defended a target score of 255 on a typically slow Guyana National Stadium pitch.

The victory gave Zimbabwe a 1-0 lead in the five-match series with the second match set for the same venue on Saturday.

Opener Vusimuzi Sibanda had struck five fours and one six in 95 from 162 balls to be the cornerstone of Zimbabwe''s 254 for five from their quota of 50 overs after they decided to bat.

But the match came down to the final over, and Zimbabwe captain Prosper Utseya gambled with Masakadza.

The 23-year-old fast-medium bowler conceded a six, a four, and a single to Nikita Miller off the first three balls of the final over before he bowled Dwayne Smith for four, and had Sulieman Benn caught at deep mid-wicket off successive balls, as West Indies narrowly failed to get 15 runs from the final over.

Zimbabwe''s spinners again choked the West Indies'' top-order batting, despite Shivnarine Chanderpaul hitting the top score of a run-a-ball 70, home team captain Chris Gayle making 57 from 66 balls, and fellow opener Adrian Barath 50 from 96 balls on debut.

Between Zimbabwe''s four frontline spinners - their captain Prosper Utseya, Ray Price, Graeme Cremer, and Greg Lamb - they delivered 40 overs at four runs apiece, and removed Gayle and Kieron Pollard, the West Indies two most dangerous hitters.

They had been kept at bay, when Gayle shared 99 for the first wicket with Barath before he was lbw to Lamb in the 23rd over.

From this point, Zimbabwe continued to tighten the noose, and the run outs of Andre Fletcher and Narsingh Deonarine did not help the cause of the home team.

Earlier, Sibanda shared 67 for the first wicket with Hamilton Masakadza, then 100 for the second wicket Tatenda Taibu, and anchored Zimbabwe''s innings before Kemar Roach spectacularly bowled him - smashing his bat in the process - in the penultimate over

Masakadza smote half-dozen boundaries in 41 from 45 balls, and Taibu struck five fours in 56 from 54 balls.

Masakadza was lbw to Nikita Miller sweeping, and Taibu was lbw to Kieron Pollard playing across the line.

When Brendan Taylor failed to beat Pollard''s side-footed shot at the striker''s end, and was run out for one in the 38th over, Zimbabwe were 168 for three.

Elton Chigumbura joined Sibanda and put on 47 for the fourth wicket before he was caught at long-on for 27 in the 46th over, as Zimbabwe chased quick runs in the closing stages.

The two sides also played three ODIs on March 10, 12, and 14 at the Arnos Vale Multiplex in St. Vincent.

Zimbabwe have never beaten West Indies in a bilateral ODI series.