Chevrons Clash With Windies, On The Brink Of World Cup Qualification
ZIMBABWE head clash with West Indies at Harare Sports Club on Monday with full knowledge that a win sends them through to the 2019 International Cricket Council Cricket World Cup in England.
Ireland did Zimbabwe a huge act of kindness when they beat Scotland by 25 runs at Harare Sports Club on Sunday. It was Scotland’s first loss so far in the tournament which means that the Chevrons remain the only team still to taste defeat in the Qualifier.
Zimbabwe remain on top of the log with five points, followed by Scotland with the same number while West Indies and Ireland have four each. If Zimbabwe overcomes West Indies, they will move to seven points which means that Scotland would have to beat the Windies to finish level with the Chevrons with the two teams going to England.
Should Monday's encounter not go Zimbabwe’s way, then they would have to beat the United Arab Emirates in their last Super Six fixture on Thursday to take one of the two slots available.
Man of the match Andrew Balbirnie top-scored for Ireland with 105 runs for their score of 271 for nine. Scotland had skipper Kyle Coezter the highest run scorer with 61 runs but a brilliant fightback by pace bowler Boyd Rankin saw him pick up four wickets to bowl out Scotland for 246. The win by Ireland gave Zimbabwe the much-needed breathing space as Scotland are a big threat to Zimbabwe’s qualification.
Zimbabwe have been playing magnificent cricket and do not deserve to even lose any match in this tournament. Skipper Graeme Cremer last Friday expressed the desire to go the whole Qualifier without being conquered, something they have achieved so far.
While the bowling has been terrific, the batting has been a huge concern for the host nation. This is an area they have to make sure fires if they are to overcome the Jason Holder led Windies. Brendan Taylor is the tournament’s leading run scorer with 304 runs with support for him having come from Sikandar Raza and Hamilton Masakadza. Openers, Cephas Zhuwao and Solomon Mire have made explosive starts but have not been able to convert that to big scores.
Raza has been in fine all-round form, contributing with runs and wickets, which have seen him walk away with three man-of-the-match awards. Left-arm spinner Tendai Chisoro is another player who has made a massive impact with six wickets picked up in the two matches he has played so far.
What should give Zimbabwe the advantage is that they have not lost the last two matches against West Indies. In November 2016, Zimbabwe managed a tie and a five-run Duckworth/Lewis Method victory over the Windies with both matches played at Queens Sports Club. That win denied West Indies a place in the final of the triangular series which also featured Sri Lanka with the Chevrons meeting the Sri Lankans in the final.
However, one has to go back to 30 November 2008 for Zimbabwe’s last win over West Indies at Harare Sports Club. The Chevrons won by 30 runs in the first One Day International. Masakadza and Taylor are the only Zimbabwean players who were part of the team which last conquered the Windies at the venue of today’s encounter. For West Indies, master blaster Christopher Gayle and Marlon Samuels are the surviving members of that side.
Zimbabweans have come out in their huge numbers for all of their team's five matches so far in the tournament and there will be massive celebrations if the Chevrons triumph over West Indies since they would be now headed for England next year.