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World Cup Qualifier wrap: Zimbabwe pull off sensational win

Zimbabwe pulled off a stunning comeback to beat Afghanistan by two runs, taking the match-winning wicket in the final over of their Group B World Cup Qualifier clash in Bulawayo.

Last pair Dawlat Zadran (10*) and his namesake Shapoor (7) looked to be edging towards the victory target and reached the 50th over needing 4 to win. But Brian Vitori (2/31) had Shapoor caught behind third ball of the over to complete a remarkable win that sent the home crowd into raptures.

Afghanistan, who have now lost both of their World Cup Qualifier matches so far, capitulated from a position of seeming dominance.

It looked like they were cruising at 156/3 in reply to Zimbabwe’s disappointing 196, with Rahmat Shah compiling an accomplished 69 from 91 balls and putting on 98 with No.5 Mohammad Nabi (51 off 56).

At the drinks break Afghanistan needed just 50 runs from 20 overs with seven wickets in hand. But with the loss of Rahmat – lbw to the impressive Blessing Muzarabani (4/47) – went all their composure; Nabi fell soon after, Sharafuddin Ashraf was dismissed for a second-ball duck and Zimbabwe – and a buzzing home crowd – sniffed a remarkable comeback victory.

Rashid, stand-in skipper in the tournament, lasted just three balls before becoming the final wicket in a three-wicket over from left-arm spinner Sikandar Raza, to leave the final three wickets needing to cobble together 28 runs for victory.

It proved beyond them. Muzarabani had Najibullah Zadran caught by skipper Graeme Cremer and in his next over – which followed a maiden from Raza – clean bowled Mujeeb Ur Rahman for his fourth wicket.

With one wicket left and rangy left-armer Shapoor Zadran walking out to bat, Afghanistan still needed 20 to win.

They blocked and nudged and nurdled their way close to the target to have Zimbabwean hearts aflutter, but in the end the tailenders had been left too much to do.

Zimbabwe’s opening pair Tendai Chatara and Brian Vitori had bowled respectably up front, between them removing the dangerous Ihsanullah for 1 and the talismanic Mohammad Shahzad for 24, before returning at the end to finish off the innings and seal victory.

Earlier, a spirited bowling effort from Afghanistan, led by Mujeeb ur Rahman, helped Afghanistan bowl Zimbabwe out for 196.

Despite half-centuries from Brendan Taylor and Sikandar Raza, Zimbabwe could last only 43 overs with Mujeeb picking up 3/49 in his nine overs and his captain Rashid Khan returning 3/38 in eight overs.

Electing to bat first, Zimbabwe got off to a disastrous start as they lost three wickets inside the first seven overs with just 17 runs on the scoreboard.

Dawlat Zadran, the medium-pacer, struck with his very first delivery of the morning to get rid of Cephas Zhuwao for a duck. Mujeeb, the teenaged spinner who has made a habit of striking early blows for his side then got into the act.

He first got Solomon Mire to edge one to Ihsanullah at first slip for 4 and then accounted for Hamilton Masakadza (3) soon after leaving Zimbabwe in a big spot.

The responsibility of guiding the team to safer shores once again fell on the shoulders of Taylor and he did not disappoint.

Along with Craig Ervine (13), he started the rebuilding process with a 49-run stand for the fourth wicket before Ervine fell in the 18th over, caught behind off Mohammad Nabi.

Raza, who had smoked a 59-run century in the first game against Nepal, then joined Taylor in the middle and quickly got into his stride with a four and a six. Meanwhile, Taylor carried on with his merry ways, scoring a half-century in just 44 deliveries.

Raza, not far behind, got to his half-century soon too, taking 56 balls to get to the mark for the 12th time in his ODI career.

Just when it seemed like Zimbabwe were on course for a good total, however, Dawlat got the better of Taylor for 89 to break the 98-run stand between the duo, leaving Zimbabwe at 164/5.

That was just the break Afghanistan needed and once Raza was accounted for by Rashid for 60, the bowlers ran through the Zimbabwe lower order – the last five wickets fell for just nine runs.

The defeat puts Afghanistan’s qualification hopes in doubt, coming as it does on the back of their defeat to Scotland in their tournament opener.

West Indies off to winning winning start

Chris Gayle and Shimron Hetmyer had a party in their Group A match at the 2018 World Cup Qualifier, hitting quick centuries to help Windies score 357/4 and lead them to a 60-run win against United Arab Emirates.

UAE gallantly saw out their 50 overs, Rameez Shahzad finishing not out on 112 for the third century of the match – but fell 60 runs shy of an ominous target.

Sharman Anwr hit a brisk 64 and Adnan Mufti chipped in with a breezy 45 but both fell to Windies captain Jason Holder, who was the stand-out bowler with 5/53 from his 10 overs.

Earlier, Gayle had opened the batting with Evin Lewis, and the UAE bowlers must have felt they had caught the opposition on a quiet day when the first six overs yielded just 25 runs.

But Gayle took off after that, taking on Mohammad Naveed, who had returned a five-for in UAE’s earlier game against Papua New Guinea, and sending him for two sixes and a four in the seventh over.

That didn’t quite open the floodgates, though, with Lewis playing an uncharacteristically sedate innings of 31 from 49 balls before becoming the first to fall in the 17th over to Ahmed Raza, the left-arm spinner, to end the 89-run stand.

But Hetmyer walked out with intent and got going straightaway. Gayle also upped his game, and twin sixes in consecutive overs, bowled by Raza and Imran Haider, made the scoreboard race along.

Rohan Mustafa, the UAE captain, fared even poorer against the rampaging opening batsman, being smashed for sixes off his first three deliveries of the 26th over soon after Gayle had brought up his century off 79 balls with a single off Naveed.

At that point, Hetmyer was on a run-a-ball 17, having settled down and focused on giving Gayle the strike.

Gayle didn’t last too much longer after reaching three figures, caught by Amir Hayat off Haider for a 91-ball 123 in the 29th over. Their partnership was worth 103 runs.

But Hetmyer took charge after that in collaboration with Marlon Samuels to add another 77 runs for the third wicket. Just like Gayle had dominated the previous stand, Hetmyer did this one, with Samuels contributing just 15 before falling to Mustafa.

Shai Hope was in next, and in a belligerent mood as well, as he added a further 65 with Hetmyer, who got to his century with a double off Hayat in the 44th over, before getting out close to the end of the innings caught behind off Hayat for 127, scored off 93 balls with 14 fours and four sixes.

That still left time for Hope, who retired hurt on 35 with two balls left in the innings because of a sore knee, and Jason Holder to add to UAE’s woes with a few more lusty blows.

Hope started in the field, but withdrew himself in the second over with Hetmyer taking over behind the stumps, before Windies suffered another injury blow when Sheldon Cottrell was removed from the game after aggravating something at the beginning of the 19th over.

Ireland to strong for Papua New Guinea

Ireland secured their second win of the 2018 World Cup Qualifier with a thrilling final-over victory against Papua New Guinea in their Group A clash at Harare Sports Club on Tuesday.

Paul Stirling (27) and skipper William Porterfield (111) kicked off proceedings for Ireland, as they battled to surpass PNG’s total of 236, owed largely to a brilliant hundred by Tony Ura in the first innings.

His 151 was the fourth-highest percentage of a team’s total in a completed ODI innings, scoring 64 per cent of his team’s runs.

The left-hand/right-hand combination for Ireland got off to a solid start, with Porterfield taking advantage of some loose bowling, as Alei Nao, Norman Vanua and Mahuru Dai struggled to make an early impression.

It was the spin of Assad Vala who made the first breakthrough. Looking to go big, Stirling (27) swept the off-break bowler to mid-wicket but couldn’t get over it, with Lega Siaka gladly accepting the catch.

Porterfield refused to let his opening partner’s wicket deter him, as he continued in assured fashion, stealing ones and twos and hitting the bad ball to the boundary. Dai and Vala were providing off-spin from both ends, but neither looked particularly threatening in these conditions.

Chad Soper then bowled Andrew Balbirnie, as the Irishman played all around a full, straight delivery, to leave Ireland 76/2. Both Soper and Dai started to halt the previously free-flowing Ireland by taking the pace off.

The game was nicely poised at drinks, with Ireland requiring 140 off 174 at 4.82 with eight wickets in hand.

Porterfield quickly moved onto his fifty and during an important passage of play the experienced left-hand duo, which also comprised Ed Joyce, began to usher Ireland into a commanding position. The skipper continued to take full advantage of anything short with PNG’s attack made to look one-dimensional.

Joyce racked up his fifty in 66 balls – the perfect foil to Porterfield’s more authoritative display – before holing out in the deep.

Nao took the chest-high catch off the bowling of Dai – the only mistake by Joyce in an otherwise chanceless knock.

183/3 soon became 188/4 when Vala trapped Niall O’Brien lbw with a flatter and quicker delivery. Once again dispelling fears of a PNG revival, Porterfield helped himself to his century – a fine captain’s knock.

Kevin O’Brien was soon dropped at mid-wicket before the skipper finally departed for 111, outfoxed by a slower delivery from Nao, with Charles Amini providing the catch.

Ireland entered the last over with three runs required before Wilson found the boundary with the first ball to conclude a thrilling match.

Scotland make it two from two with win over Hong Kong

Scotland’s impressive start to their 2018 World Cup Qualifier 2018 Group B campaign continued into their second game in Bulawayo on Tuesday, with the bowlers setting up victory against Hong Kong.

Tom Sole led the bowling charge with 4/15 as Scotland dismissed Hong Kong for just 91 in 38.2 overs at Bulawayo Athletic Club. After that, despite a strong effort from the Hong Kong bowlers, Scotland eased to a four-wicket win to make it two wins from two and jump atop the group standings.

Kyle Coetzer, the Scotland captain, remained unbeaten on a 60-ball 41 as he saw the chase through, although Ehsan Nawaz (2/24) and Ehsan Khan (3/29) made matters hard for Scotland as they ended on 92/6 from 23.3 overs.

After Hong Kong were asked to bat, Nizakat Khan’s 26 and his 46-run stand with his opening partner Aizaz Khan (17) proved to be the only bright spot. The two did commendably, their partnership ensuring Scotland went wicketless in the first 10 overs.

Nizakat’s 40-ball knock comprised five fours, while Aizaz at the other end matched him during his 27-ball innings that included two fours and a six.

Once the stand was broken, though, it was a procession, Hong Kong losing 10 wickets for just 45 runs. Nizakat was the first to fall, trapped in front by Mark Watt, the left-arm spinner, in the 11th over.

In the next over, Alasdair Evans, the right-arm pacer, accounted for Aizaz, who looked to pull and miscued to wide mid-on.

Sole then took charge. His off-spin accounted for Anshuman Rath and Scott McKechnie in the 14th over, with both batsmen falling for ducks. And though Babar Hayat, the captain, and Shahid Wasif stonewalled for six overs thereafter, they managed to add just one run and it was only a matter of time before the pressure took effect.

Hayat was caught at short-leg after inside-edging one on to his pads, his 22-ball stint yielding just seven runs as Sole claimed his third wicket. When Wasif followed suit three overs later to Safyaan Sharif, Hong Kong were 61/6.

The tail tried hard to fight back. All of Waqas Barkat (5 off 12 balls), Tanwir Afzal (7 off 30) and Ehsan Khan (16 not out off 46) looked to steer clear of the risks and boost the total as much as possible.

However, Scotland weren’t to be denied for long, and Sole led his team back to the dressing room with figures of 4/15 in his 10 overs, which included five maidens.

Despite not having much to defend, the Hong Kong bowlers, predominantly Nawaz, the medium pacer, and Khan, the off-spinner, ensured Scotland were made to feel the strain.

Nawaz had Matthew Cross (2) clean bowled early and the dangerous Calum MacLeod (10) became his second wicket as Scotland fell to 32/2.

Richie Berrington didn’t last long either, dismissed by Khan for a 13-ball 1, but with Coetzer looking solid at one end, it was a matter of Scotland finding a partnership.

It came when George Munsey walked in. He scored a quick 18-ball 22, putting away five boundaries to drain the Hong Kong hopes, and his 24-run stand with Coetzer helped Scotland get to within 17 runs of the target.

However, his dismissal by Khan triggered another slide, with both Craig Wallace (5) and Watt (5) unable to stick around and see the chase through.

Despite the late wickets, though, Hong Kong had little to cheer about in the end as Coetzer took charge and nudged around to seal the chase with 159 balls in hand.