By India Today Sports Desk: The ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 Qualifiers got off to a fine start on Sunday as Zimbabwe and West Indies emerged victorious in their opening matches. Zimbabwe, led by captain Craig Ervine, cruised to an eight-wicket win over Nepal, while the West Indies sealed a comfortable 39-run victory against the United States of America.
In an outstanding display of leadership, Zimbabwe's skipper Craig Ervine showcased his batting prowess by scoring a century that guided his team to victory over Nepal. Ervine joined forces with Sean Williams, who achieved the fastest century by a Zimbabwean batter in one-day international cricket, propelling their side to a commanding eight-wicket triumph. Chasing Nepal's total of 290 for eight, built on Kushal Bhurtel's impressive 99, Ervine and Williams formed a decisive 164-run partnership to secure the win.
After winning the toss, Ervine elected to field first, hoping to put pressure on Nepal. However, Nepal's openers, Bhurtel and Aasif Sheikh, started strongly, amassing runs and building a solid partnership of 100 runs within 23 overs.
Bhurtel showcased his exceptional skills, nearing a century before being dismissed for a brilliant 99 by Wellington Masakadza. Sheikh contributed with a well-made 66, but Zimbabwe's Richard Ngarava's bowling performance, claiming four wickets for 43 runs, curtailed Nepal's progress. Eventually, Nepal concluded their innings with a total of 290 for eight.
Zimbabwe's pursuit of the target began steadily until Joylord Gumbie's dismissal for 25. Wessly Madhevere's contribution of 32 was followed by his departure at the hands of Gulsan Jha. However, the entrance of Sean Williams to the crease changed the game. With Ervine anchoring the innings, Williams accelerated the scoring rate and etched his name in Zimbabwean ODI history with a scintillating century off just 70 balls. The duo's unyielding partnership ensured Zimbabwe's victory, delighting the home crowd in Harare.
Meanwhile, the West Indies showcased their strength by securing a commanding 39-run win over the United States at the Takashinga Sports Club. Contributions from Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Johnson Charles, and Roston Chase propelled the West Indies to a formidable total of 297 and despite Gajanand Singh's resilient century in the chase, were able to get the important win.
Electing to field first, the American captain Monank Patel's decision paid off quickly as Saurabh Netravalkar dismissed Brandon King for a duck in just the second over. Kyle Phillip then bowled Kyle Mayers, leaving the West Indies at 14 for two. However, Shai Hope and Johnson Charles stabilized the innings, forging a crucial partnership of 115 runs. Both batsmen reached their half-centuries before falling in quick succession to Nosthush Kenjige and Steven Taylor. Roston Chase and Nicholas Pooran continued the assault, propelling the West Indies to a strong total. Holder played a fine knock of 56 from 40 balls as the former World Champions reached the total of 297.
In response, the American openers, Taylor and Sushant Modani, looked comfortable until Jason Holder made the breakthrough, triggering a series of wickets. Holder removed Modani, while Mayers accounted for Taylor and Patel. Alzarri Joseph further disrupted the American middle-order. Despite Gajanand Singh's fighting century, along with contributions from Shayan Jahangir and Nosthush Kenjige, the experienced West Indian attack proved too strong for USA.