ALL-ROUNDER Sean Williams scored the fastest century by a Zimbabwean batter in One-Day International cricket and skipper Craig Ervine produced a batting masterclass as the Chevrons claimed an eight-wicket win over Nepal in the opening match of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier at Harare Sports Club yesterday.
The pair of experienced batters took Zimbabwe home with dominant centuries, as the Chevrons chased down what looked a competitive total, after Nepal had made 290/8 in their 50 overs earlier on.
The hosts reached 291/2 with 35 balls to spare on a good batting surface, much to the delight of a packed Harare Sports Club.
Earlier on, Nepal’s Kushal Bhurtel had just missed his second ODI ton when he was dismissed for 99 but his 171-run partnership with Aasif Sheikh (66) was key for the Asians’ big total.
But the day belonged to the Zimbabwean pair of Williams (102*) and Ervine (121*) who featured in an unbroken 164-run stand for the third wicket.
Zimbabwe won the toss and put Nepal in to bat first. The Asians, who are seeking their first World Cup appearance, played an innings of their lives with openers Bhurtel and wicketkeeper batsman Sheikh featuring in a gigantic partnership.
The pair faced 31.5 overs before Zimbabwe got their breakthrough.
It was a heartbreaking moment for Bhurtel in particular, after he was bowled by Wellington Masakadza just one run short of his second ODI hundred.
Masakadza struck again, removing the other opening batsman Sheikh with just four runs added, two overs apart, before Richard Ngarava rocked the middle order.
The Nepalese continued to push for a big score with another 72-run partnership between the captain Rohit Paudel (31) and Kushal Malla (33) for the third wicket.
But after Masakadza had given the breakthrough earlier on with his two wickets, Zimbabwe’s bowlers fought back with Ngarava’s 4-43 and a wicket each for Tendai Chatara and Blessing Muzarabani.
Ervine opened the innings with debutant Joylord Gumbie (25) and they had a promising start in the run chase. However, Zimbabwe encountered a big setback when Gumbie was trapped lbw by Sompal Kami last ball of the eighth over, to leave Zimbabwe on 45/1.
Madhevere joined in and the fray and they managed to keep the scoreboard ticking with an 82-run partnership, which consumed just 92 balls.
Madhevere dropped at 22 in the 17th over when he played a risky upper-cut from Gulsan Jha’s bowling.
But he was not so lucky the second time after he presented a simple catch opportunity to Airee off the bowling of Gulsan again.
Zimbabwe were 127/2 when Madhevere was dismissed and were going at a good scoring rate, even at a faster run rate compared to Nepal.
The third wicket partnership between Ervine and Williams was also better because it consumed less as Williams continued to push for his sixth ODI ton in a milestone 150th ODI game.
“The surface is really good so I feel chasing down 300, I think it’s a par score,” said Williams.
“Just look at the Pakistan A series scores. That tells you a lot about this wicket. I think it’s a good wicket and if we can hold on to our catches and be a little bit more disciplined in the field I think things will change,” said Williams.
The all-rounder turned things around in the 44th over when he plundered 18 runs off the bowling of Gulsan Jha.
“I actually didn’t think I would get there at one stage. It looked like we were going to run out of runs but it’s a good feeling obviously to continue to be positive and to chase down these totals as quickly as we can and its always a factor in these tournaments.
“Tournament cricket is very different to bilateral cricket. But it’s a good feeling especially on fathers’ Day. I’m going to give this one to my dad (Colin Ray Williams, who died last year) because I know he is looking down on us from above,” said Williams.
“We spoke a lot about just going at five an over without taking any risks and hitting the ball on the gaps. Hitting the gaps was the most important for us because we knew we were going to get two or four and the singles put on top of that and we were going at five an over without taking risks,” said Williams.
Nepal coach Monty Desai said the defeat was an eye-opener for his team, after they fell 20 runs off their targeted score.
“We played a practice game here and obviously in our minds we were looking at 280-290. We wanted to see how it pans out for us. We had a wonderful performance from our openers, that 171-run partnership set the platform for us, and I think in the end the experience of Muzarabani and Ngarava, they came up with good bowling plans so we probably missed out ion 15-20 runs,” said Desai.
Match summary scorecard:
Zimbabwe beat Nepal by eight wickets
Nepal 290/8 in 50 overs (Kushal Bhurtel 99, Aasif Sheikh 66; Richard Ngarava 4/43, Wellington Masakadza 2/42)
Zimbabwe 291/2 in 44.1 overs (Craig Ervine 121*, Sean Williams 102*; Sompal Kami 1/30, Gulsan Jha 1/56)
Group B: Ireland v Oman (BAC), Sri Lanka v United Arab Emirates (Queens Sports Club)