Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
BLISTERING centuries by Sikandar Raza and Brendan Taylor led Zimbabwe to a resounding 116-run victory over Nepal in an ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier at Queens Sports Club yesterday.
The win sees Zimbabwe topping Group B followed by Scotland, who seemingly did the home team a massive favour by beating Afghanistan by seven wickets at Bulawayo Athletic Club. Zimbabwe take on Afghanistan at Queens Sports Club tomorrow in what is certainly the biggest group match for the Chevrons.
Raza top scored with a rapid 123 off 66 deliveries, comprising seven fours and nine sixes, while Taylor made 100 from 92 balls by putting away seven fours and a six. The two senior batsmen put on 173 for the fifth-wicket stand to power Zimbabwe to 380 after winning the toss and electing to bat.
Man of the match Raza also picked up three wickets for 48 runs in 10 overs as Nepal could only manage 264 for eight off their 50 overs. Sharad Vesawkar top scored with 52, while there was also a half century for Aarif Sheikh, who made exactly 50.
With entry into the match free, the fans came in their numbers to create a carnival atmosphere, with the ground almost full to capacity at the end of the match.
Graeme Cremer, the Zimbabwean skipper, attributed the win to the good foundation laid by openers Cephas Zhuwao and Solomon Mire.
“It was good to get out there today and get some big runs. We have been asking for runs from the top order and Mayor (Zhuwao) and Solomon set a great foundation for us. Raza and Brendan were exceptional; two hundreds to get 380 on probably a 280 wicket,” Cremer said.
Zhuwao and Mire gave the hosts a flying start, scoring at more than 10 runs an over as they put on 77 for the opening wicket. The partnership ended when Zhuwao perished in the eighth over, trapped leg before wicket by spinner Sandeep Lamichhane for 41 off 23 balls after hitting three fours and four sixes.
Hamilton Masakadza went cheaply for 16 off 23 deliveries when he was caught and bowled by Basant Regmi.
Mire went soon after getting to his half century, going down the track off the bowling of Regmi to be stumped by wicket-keeper Dilip Nath.
Taylor and Raza made sure the hosts posted a commanding total with some sweetly timed knocks coupled with some aggression.
An 87-run partnership between Taylor and Craig Ervine set Zimbabwe up for a huge score. Ervine fell to Lalit Rajbanshi when he caught behind by Nath for 34.
Ervine’s dismissal did not deter Zimbabwe, as Taylor and Raza flayed the Nepal bowling attack. Raza got to the century mark off 59 deliveries and Taylor did so shortly after facing 91 balls. The two went out to consecutive deliveries, dismissed by pace bowler Sompal Kami.
In their run chase, Nepal lost Nath in the fourth over, bowled by pacer Tendai Chatara for two runs. Vesawkar and Sheikh kept Nepal in the game, but it was always going to be a tough task chasing such a huge score.
Raza capped a fine all-round display with three wickets. Left-arm seamer Brian Vitori took two, while Cremer, Chatara and Jarvis took a wicket each.
Of concern for Zimbabwe will be the lack of penetration upfront by the seamers, whom Cremer admitted were off the mark. There were also a couple of dropped catches, which is something that must be fixed ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Afghanistan.
With not much success for the seamers yesterday, Zimbabwe might have to field left-arm spinner Tendai Chisoro against the Afghans. — @Mdawini_29