By Mehluli Sibanda in Bulawayo
Well struck centuries by Sikandar Raza and Brendan Taylor led Zimbabwe to a resounding 116-run victory over Nepal in an International Cricket Council World Cup Qualifier contest at Queens Sports Club yesterday. The win saw Zimbabwe top group B, followed by Scotland who 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, struck seven fours and nine sixes while Taylor made 100 from 92 balls, putting away seven fours and one six. The two senior batsmen put on 173 for the fifth wicket to power Zimbabwe, who won the toss and opted to bat to 380 for six in 50 overs.
Man of the match, Raza also picked up three wickets for 48 runs in 10 overs as Nepal could only manage 264 for eight in 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 out 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 Zhuwao and Mire.
“It was good to get out there today and get some big runs, we have been asking for runs from the top order, Mayor (Cephas Zhuwao) and Solomon (Mire) set a great foundation for us. Raza and Brendan were exceptional, two hundreds to get 380 on probably a 280 wicket,” Cremer said.
Zimbabwe’s openers, Zhuwao and Mire gave them a flying start which saw the two score at more than 10 runs an over.
The pair put on 77 for the opening wicket, a partnership ended when Zhuwao perished in the eighth over, trapped leg before wicket by spinner Sandeep Lamichhane for 41 off 23 balls, an innings made of three fours and four sixes.
Hamilton Masakadza went cheaply, gone for 16 off 23 deliveries, 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 that the host nation posted a commanding total with some sweet timing of the ball coupled with aggression. An 87-run partnership between Taylor and Craig Ervine set Zimbabwe up for a huge score. Ervine fell to Lalit Rajbanshi, taken behind by Nath for 34.
Ervine’s dismissal did not deter Zimbabwe as Taylor and Raza flayed with the Nepal bowling attack. Raza got to the century mark off 59 deliveries and Taylor did so shortly after facing up to 91 balls. The two went on consecutive deliveries, dismissed by pace bowler Sompal Kami.
In their run chase, Nepal lost Nath in the fourth over when he was bowled by pace bowler Tendai Chatara for two runs. Vesawkar and Sheikh kept Nepal in the game but it was always going to be tough to chase such a huge score.
Raza capped a fine all round display with the three wickets, left arm seamer Brian Vitori took two while there was one wicket apiece for Cremer, Chatara and Jarvis.
Of concern for Zimbabwe would be the lack of penetration upfront by the seamers who Cremer admitted were off the mark. There were also a couple of dropped catches which should also be something they have to fix ahead of tomorrow’s match against Afghanistan.
With not much success for the seamers yesterday, Zimbabwe might have to field left arm spinner Tendai Chisoro against Afghanistan.