Zimbabwe and Afghanistan got off to winning starts on the opening day of the World Twenty20 after respectively overcoming a scandal-hit Hong Kong and a spirited Scotland in Nagpur Tuesday.
Vusi Sibanda struck a fluent half-century to help Zimbabwe defeat Hong Kong by 14 runs in the first group encounter of Round 1.
Stung by a corruption charge prior to the start of the sixth edition of the tournament, Hong Kong had their moments in the game but failed to capitalise.
Electing to field, Hong Kong’s bowlers made early inroads but Sibanda held fort with a 46-ball 59 to guide his side to 158 for eight.
Sibanda’s 61-run fifth wicket partnership with Malcolm Waller and a late blitz by Elton Chigumbura ensured the total remained beyond the grasp of Hong Kong, who in turn could only manage 144 for six in their 20 overs.
The Tanwir Afzal-led side lost a couple of early wickets, but opener Jamie Atkinson put up some fight with a gutsy 53 off 44 balls, including four boundaries and two sixes.
A late flourish by Afzal (31 not out) gave the team some hope but the ever-increasing run rate proved too much for a side participating in just its second World T20.
Hong Kong’s preparations were badly hit by the suspension of their all-rounder Irfan Ahmed in January as part of an ongoing corruption investigation and the opening day loss has only added salt to their wounds.
Among the positives that Hong Kong could gather from the outing was their near-perfect fielding that forced three run-outs and yielded some good catches in the Zimbabwe innings.
In the second match of the day, favourites Afghanistan rode on an entertaining fifty from Mohammad Shahzad to beat Scotland by 14 runs.
Choosing to bat, Afghanistan built on an 82-run second wicket partnership between skipper Asghar Stanikzai (55 not out) and Shahzad (61) to post 170 for five.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Shahzad brought the house down with his colourful strokeplay, including the trademark ‘helicopter shot’ borrowed from his favourite player MS Dhoni.
His 39-ball stay, laced with five boundaries and three sixes, gave the side enough momentum to keep the total out of the reach of Scotland, who could only muster 156 for five in their 20 overs.
The Preston Mommsen-led side got off to a flying start only to lose the plot after the departure of their openers George Munsey (41) and Kyle Coetzer (40).
At 84 for no loss, Scotland looked set to overhaul their target but spinners Samiullah Shenwari and Rashid Khan had other ideas.
The leg-spin duo shared three wickets between them to hurt the Scotland chase by stifling the flow of runs amidst the growing run-rate.
Though guilty of a few slip-ups in the field, Afghanistan also produced a crucial run out in the 11th over as Scotland lost three of their batsmen in the space of 10 deliveries.
Matt Machan then tried hard to get the chase back on track with a hard-working 36, but Afghanistan kept their nerves to get an expected result in their favour.
Bangladesh will play Netherlands, while Ireland will meet Oman in the two Group A matches on Wednesday.
The top sides from Group A and B will move in to the Super 10 stage involving the eight established teams of world cricket.