The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE all-rounder Sikandar Raza has expressed his joy at facing Pakistan in the upcoming limited-overs series in Rawalpindi that he has branded as ‘special’.
With the first of three ODIs between the two sides coming more than seven months since Zimbabwe last played an international match due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Raza’s excitement is understandable.
“What makes it more special is the fact that after more than six months of no cricket , for us to receive an invitation and for both countries to commit to this tour, not just for myself but the whole team, everyone is extremely delighted to be here,” Raza said, speaking after Zimbabwe’s practice session at the Army Cricket Ground in Rawalpindi on Saturday.
The 34-year-old all-rounder has an extra incentive to do well in the series since Pakistan is his country of birth, having been born in the city of Sialkot before emigrating to Zimbabwe in 2001 along with his family.
“I have a special bond with this place. The beauty of Pakistan and Zimbabwe is that both countries have accepted who I am. I am a Pakistan-born Zimbabwe cricketer, but I have a special bond with Pakistan and, yes, it’s extremely special to be back here playing some cricket,’’ he said.
However, aiding Zimbabwe to do well in the ODI series, which is part of the inaugural Super League that is serving as the main route for qualification for the 2023 edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup in India is more significant for Raza than the nostalgic emotions that playing only 222km from his birthplace will evoke.
“No one understands the pain of not qualifying, whilst playing some really good cricket, more than Zimbabwe. We couldn’t qualify for the (2019) World Cup by a margin of two runs, so now here we are, trying to make sure we treat every game as a final because, ideally, we don’t want to be playing qualifiers again.”
The first game between Pakistan and Zimbabwe is scheduled for Friday, with the other two fixtures set for 1 and 3 November, with all the ODIs being day-night affairs in Rawalpindi.
After the ODI series, Pakistan and Zimbabwe will square off in three T20 international matches scheduled for 7, 8 and 10 November, now to be played in Rawalpindi and not in Lahore as previously announced due to air pollution.
Meanwhile, in the Fifty50 Challenge matches played on Saturday, Eagles women defeated Tuskers by 142 runs at Kwekwe Sports Club. Eagles were bowled out for 197 in 48.5 overs and they went on to clean up Tuskers for 55 in 22.5 overs.
At Harare Sports Club, Mountaineers defeated Rhinos by six wickets. National team captain, Mary-Anne Musonda top scored for Rhinos with 87 while Josephine Nkomo was second best with 42, Rhinos 209 all out in 46.3 overs. Pellagia Mujaji was the highest run contributor in the Mountaineers run chase with a 73-ball 59 and was complimented by Chipo Tiripano’s 51, the target reached in 40.3 overs.
In the National Premier League, log leaders Takashinga have an opportunity to cement their spot on top of the log when they clash with Gladiators in one of the four fixtures lined up for Sunday. Second placed Midwest take on Queens at Kwekwe Sports Club, Harare Kings take on Rainbow in the capital city while Amakhosi and Easterns clash on neutral territory at Masvingo Sports Club.