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Facing a bowling side that consists of Lasith Malinga, did Sikandar Raza (above) not feel any heat while batting? © AFP

“I do not have words to explain my feelings,” Sikandar Raza exclaimed a few hours after receiving the Man of the Match award that created history for Zimbabwe cricket.

Zimbabwe had won an overseas series after nine years. The victory had also changed equations for both teams. Angelo Mathews, who had looked devastated after the loss, stepped down from captaincy across formats.

While it was ‘one of the lowest points’ of one captain’s journey, another, Graeme Cremer, marked it as the ‘pinnacle of his career’. Leading in only 20 ODIs, Cremer had done something that his experienced predecessors could not.

Though Zimbabwe put forward a team effort to keep the series alive and eventually win it, it would have not been possible without Raza, who kept his shirt on in Hambantota on Monday until his team collected the required runs.

Raza’s unbeaten 27 may not look as generous as Hamilton Masakadza’s 73 that set the tone of Zimbabwe’s chase, but it sure was quintessential given the temperament the right-hander showed after Zimbabwe were reduced from 92 for 1 to 175 for 7.

Facing a bowling side that consists of Lasith Malinga, did Raza not feel any heat while batting?

“Depends on the definition of pressure: for different people, the pressure is different.”

When asked what went through Raza’s mind, the response was prompt: “To be there and win it for the team. I felt the need of being there [at the crease].”

But Raza’s chronicles, in what he calls the best thing to happen to Zimbabwe cricket in recent times, were not restrained to batting only. After Tendai Chatara had removed the Niroshan Dickwella, centurion from previous two ODIs, for a mere 3, Raza cleaned up both Kusal Mendis and Upul Tharanga within 10 overs of the Sri Lanka innings, reducing them to 31 for 3. He later got the better of Wanidu Hasaranga, sending him back for a 5-ball duck to end with figures of 3 for 21: “The plan was to turn the ball to create doubts and vary pace.”

However, it was not exactly a cakewalk for the visiting spinners and Raza explains why.

“It is different as our wickets doesn’t [sic] turn much and are quicker. But luckily it worked as I manage [sic] to find the length and pace to bowl.”

There is no doubt, however, that he loves wielding the willow than hurling the cherry: “I’ve always been a batting all rounder and like to hope and pray that it stays that way.”

Born in Pakistan, Raza had migrated to Zimbabwe at a young age. Does he find pursuing cricket in the country very smooth?

“It’s the same as everywhere else in the world. If you work hard and luck is on your side, you just never know…”

He also has full faith that this team can also inspire the Zimbabwe domestic cricket to continue with the progress they have made lately: “With the new team Zimbabwe Cricket has got, I am sure it’s going to get better and better.”

Thrilled by the outstanding victory, Raza marks his performance in the match “one of the biggest achievements”.

“We prepared ourselves the best we could have and that was what we did and luckily it paid off. Massive piece of history we guys wrote.”

Raza also acknowledged that a fair share of credit behind the victory goes to Heath Streak, currently head coach for the red-and-yellows: “It [Streak’s presence] has brought calmness and belief among the squad and has brought the security of playing consistently which has helped all of us a lot.”