Zimbabwe became the second team from Group B, after Scotland, to qualify for the Super Six stage of the World Cup Qualifier 2018, defeating Hong Kong by 89 runs in Bulawayo on Sunday (March 10).
In the other Group B fixture, Afghanistan finally registered their first win in the tournament when they trounced Nepal by six wickets. This means their hopes of qualifying for the next round hang on the outcome of the Nepal-Hong Kong game on Tuesday.
Afghanistan spinners, led by Mohammad Nabi’s 4 for 33, set up the victory by bowling Nepal out for just 194 in 49.5 overs. Chasing the sub-par total, Afghanistan didn’t face much trouble and knocked off the runs in just 38.4 overs.
Paras Khadka elected to bat after winning the toss, but Nepal didn’t have a great start to their innings. Mujeeb Ur Rahman dismissed Anil Sah when the total was just 13. Gyanendra Malla and Khadka added 92 for the second wicket and took the side past 100.
Rashid Khan broke the stand with Malla’s wicket who had laboured to 23 off 69 deliveries but after that, wickets fell at regular intervals. Khadka, who hit ten fours and a six in his 82-ball 75, was the next to go with Nabi the wicket-taker. Rohit Kumar didn’t last long either and became Nabi’s second victim.
Dipendra Singh Airee and Aarif Sheikh added 26 runs for the fifth wicket but Nepal’s hopes of a revival were dashed when Rashid sent Airee back for 32, reducing them to 149 for 5. Sheikh (23) and Sompal Kami (9) took the score to 179 before Nabi dismissed both of them off successive deliveries.
Shapoor Zadran cleaned up the tail to finish with figures of 2 for 32, while Rashid ended with 3 for 45.
Chasing the paltry total, Rashid decided to promote himself as an opener and struck 21 off 14 with the help of five fours during his short stay. Javed Ahmadi and Rahmat Shah added 65 for the second wicket before Ahmadi was dismissed by Sandeep Lamichhane for 26.
Rahmat fell four short of his half-century and was bowled by Airee for 46 but Nabi and Najibullah Zadran took the side to 150. Airee struck back to dismiss Nabi (34 off 32), but Najibullah (52 not out off 47) and Samiullah Shenwari took the side to victory without further hiccups.
Zimbabwe rode on Hamilton Masakadza’s 84 to post a challenging 263 for 9 in their 50 overs. Hong Kong never looked like chasing the total down and were eventually bowled out for 174 in 46.5 overs.
After being put in, Cephas Zhuwao and Solomon Mire gave Zimbabwe a solid start with a 53-run stand for the first wicket. Once Hong Kong got rid of the openers, Masakadza and Brendon Taylor kept the bowlers at bay by adding 98 for the third wicket. Taylor fell to Ehsan Nawaz for 46 but Masakadza kept motoring on. He struck seven fours and a six during his 110-ball innings and was eventually dismissed as the fifth wicket when the scoreboard was reading 216.
Craig Ervine (25) took the side past 250 with the help of lower order before falling in the last over. For Hong Kong, Nawaz was the most successful bowler, picking up 4 for 47.
It was never going to be an easy chase for Hong Kong, and it got more difficult when both their openers were dismissed within the first five overs. Babar Hayat, the skipper, fell cheaply too, leaving the side 35 for 3.
Anshuman Rath tried to hold the innings together and took the side to 94 with Scott McKechnie before the latter was bowled by Sikandar Raza for 18. Rath meanwhile brought up his fifty but the wickets kept falling at the other end. Raza picked up two wickets more to end with figures of 3 for 30 as Rath was left alone to fight a losing battle. He was eventually the last man to be dismissed, for a 117-ball 85, as Zimbabwe rose to the top of the points table with three wins from as many games.