By India Today Sports Desk: Sikandar Raza's all-round brilliance helped Zimbabwe register a big win over the Netherlands while Nepal defeated USA on Tuesday at the ICC ODI World Cup Qualifiers.
Zimbabwe showcased their batting prowess with an impeccable onslaught, chasing down a challenging target of 316 in just 40.5 overs against the Netherlands. Led by their skipper Craig Ervine, Zimbabwe laid a solid foundation and were further propelled by exceptional performances from Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza. The victory marked Zimbabwe's second consecutive win in the tournament, boosting their claim for a place in the Super Six.
Zimbabwe won the toss and elected to bowl as the Netherlands openers, Max O'Dowd and Vikramjit Singh, took advantage of a favorable batting strip. The duo displayed positive intent and found boundaries at regular intervals, accumulating nine boundaries in the first 10 overs. Their confident strokeplay guided the Netherlands to 57 without loss, and they continued to accelerate, crossing the 100-run mark without any wicket loss by the 17th over.
However, Ryan Burl and Sikandar Raza, applied discipline and slowed down the scoring rate. Raza made a significant breakthrough in the 21st over, castling O'Dowd for 59. In his next over, Raza bowled Wesley Barresi, who missed a switch hit and ended up edging the ball onto his stumps. At the halfway stage, the Netherlands were 139/2, with Vikramjit still holding the fort.
The Dutch skipper, Scott Edwards, took charge and revitalized the innings with purposeful strokes. He combined with Vikramjit to forge a crucial partnership, adding 96 runs from just 97 balls. Edwards contributed 49 runs off 48 deliveries, and by the 38th over, the Netherlands seemed poised to comfortably surpass the 300-run mark.
However, Raza returned to haunt the Dutch with his excellent bowling performance. In the 39th over, he dismissed the set Vikramjit for 88 and followed it up by uprooting Bas de Leede's middle stump with a splendid delivery in the 41st over. Richard Ngrava joined the party by dismissing Teja Nidamanuru for 1, leaving the Netherlands struggling at 238/5 and in danger of falling short of the 300-run target.
But a resilient sixth-wicket stand of 59 runs between Edwards (83) and Saqib Zulfiqar ensured that the Netherlands crossed the 300-run mark comfortably. Their enterprising partnership allowed the European side to finish their innings at 316.
In pursuit of 316, Zimbabwe's response was led by skipper Craig Ervine, who played a quality knock of 50, including nine boundaries. Ervine and opener Joylord Gumbie added 81 runs for the first wicket before Ervine was caught by Clayton Floyd off Vikramjit Singh's delivery in the 14th over.
Sean Williams continued his free-flowing form from the previous game against Nepal, where he scored a century. Williams and Gumbie added 62 runs from 44 balls before Gumbie was bowled off a beautiful delivery from Shariz Ahmad for 40.
Williams relentlessly pursued his runs and reached his half-century off just 28 balls in the 23rd over. Raza's arrival further accelerated Zimbabwe's run-rate, and they went at over nine runs an over from the 26th over until the drinks break, reducing the required run rate to less than 4.5.
Williams fell agonizingly short of his second consecutive hundred when he was dismissed by Bas de Leede.
Raza continued to torment the Dutch bowlers and complemented his four-wicket haul with a blistering century off just 54 balls. His innings featured a hat-trick of sixes against young spinner Shariz Ahmad, making it the fastest ODI hundred by a Zimbabwean batter.
With the win, Zimbabwe recorded their third-highest successful chase in ODIs, further strengthening their claim for a place in the Super Six. Their hunt for a spot in the next phase of the tournament continues as they display their formidable skills on the cricketing stage.
Nepal beat USA
Nepal emerged as the superior side, defeating the USA, despite a special knock from Shayan Jahangir. USA, after a shaky start, managed to post a total of 207 on the back of Jahangir's brilliant century. However, Nepal showcased their prowess with both bat and ball, chasing down the target with ease.
Opting to field first after winning the toss at the Takashinga Sports Club, Nepal made early inroads into the USA batting lineup with some exceptional bowling. Seamer Karan KC proved instrumental in dismissing Steven Taylor (4) and Saiteja Mukkamalla (0) off consecutive deliveries in his first over. He continued to maintain his intensity, causing trouble for the USA batsmen.
However, Jahangir stood tall amid the early collapse and displayed his class with an outstanding hundred. Out of the 142 runs scored by USA, Jahangir contributed a remarkable 100. His innings held the USA innings together and provided them with a fighting total.
Chasing a modest target of 208, Nepal faced an early setback when opener Aasif Sheikh fell lbw to Saurabh Netravalkar for 12. Nevertheless, they capitalized on ordinary fielding from the USA to regain their momentum. Kushal Bhurtel and Bhim Sharki added 49 runs for the second wicket before Bhurtel (39) was dismissed by Nosthush Kenjige.
Skipper Rohit Paudel partnered with Sharki to stabilize the Nepal innings. Paudel's dismissal in the 27th over brought young talent Kushal Malla to the crease. Malla's run-a-ball 13, including a six, provided impetus to the innings.
With Dipendra Airee joining the fray, Nepal accelerated their run-rate and further distanced themselves from the USA. The duo put together an impressive partnership of 74 runs for the fifth wicket.