ALL-ROUNDER Sean Williams was in devastating form yesterday as Zimbabwe registered the second biggest victory in ODI cricket history following a massive 304 runs demolition of US in the last Group A game of the ICC World Cup Qualifier at Harare Sports Club.
The all-rounder, who led the side top battle as stand-in captain, was the main architect of the milestone win with a career-best 174 runs, in front of an appreciative crowd.
In a great show of batting and bowling prowess by the hosts, Williams stood tall with his seventh ODI century to help the Chevrons plunder a monumental 408/6 in their 50 overs, after losing the toss and batting first.
The target was overwhelming for the Americans, who only managed 104 runs and were bowled out in just 25.1 overs.
The Chevrons will now progress to the Super Six stage with a proud record of four wins in four games, having previously beaten Nepal, Netherlands and pre-tournament favourites West Indies.
Zimbabwe will carry four points to the Super Six and their quest for World Cup qualification was greatly aided by the Netherlands who ensured that closest rivals West Indies carry no point to the next round of the eliminator following a thrilling super-over victory for the Dutch at Takashinga yesterday.
For the win, that Dutch will carry two points.
With the home crowds solidly behind them, Zimbabwe finished top of the group after winning all games in emphatic fashion.
And, yesterday was a special day of records for the Chevrons as their 408/6 was their highest total in ODI cricket. It was also the first time they went past the 400-run mark.
In the process, Zimbabwe set the second biggest winning margin by runs in the history of men’s ODI cricket.
India hold the record which they set earlier this year when they hammered Sri Lanka by 317 runs at the Greenfield International Stadium in India.
Before yesterday’s heroics Zimbabwe’s previous highest total was 351/7 in Mombasa against Kenya in 2009, with current assistant coach Stuart Matsikenyeri the highest scorer after contributing 90 runs.
But yesterday the day belonged to Williams who smashed 174 runs, comprising 21 fours and five sixes. This was his second ton in this Qualifier, having scored 102 against Nepal in the opener. The left — hander was so good he outscored the whole US batting line-up from just 101 balls he faced. But Williams was more pleased with the team work displayed by the Chevrons both with the bat and in the field.
Zimbabwe, having already sealed their Super Six place with the famous win over the West Indies on Saturday, made four changes to the winning team, bringing in Innocent Kaia, Luke Jongwe, Tadiwanashe Marumani and Brad Evans.
“It’s pleasing. I think obviously having four new players coming into the team I thought that was really good and the intensity that they showed with the ball upfront was also bang on.
“That’s the same message (to play to win every game and to guard against complacency) for each game.
“I think we have been trying that against Pakistan A. There is a pattern of play that we look to play as a country and as a team and the guys are starting slowly to fit in there and to understand that pattern,” said Williams.
Zimbabwe punished the USA side missing some of their key players Saurabh Netravalkar and Ali Khan. After being put in by Monank Patel, Zimbabwe’s opening pair of Joylord Gumbie and Kaia started steadily, making 56 for the first wicket before Williams arrived at the crease. He immediately set about dismantling the USA attack, hitting Nisarg Patel for three consecutive boundaries and brought up his 33-ball half-century with a six off Singh.
His century followed off just 70 deliveries but Gumbie’s luck ran out on 78 when was stumped off the bowling of Nosthush Kenjige.
Sikandar Raza was in an equally destructive mood, hitting 48 off 27 before Ryan Burl made a quickfire 47 from 16 deliveries.
Williams finally fell for 174 but, with 408 on the board, the stand-in captain had more than fulfilled his duties with the bat, while Zimbabwe’s bowlers then backed him up with a trio of early wickets putting them in a commanding position.
Richard Ngarava dismissed openers Steven Taylor (0) and Sushant Modani (6), starting a steady stream of wickets at regular intervals, with captain Patel (9), Aaron Jones (8) and Garjanand Singh (13) all departing as quickly as they had arrived.
Things went from bad to worse when Shayan Jahangir was run out without facing, just two balls after Jones had also been stranded.
Abhishek Paradkar (24) and Singh (21) offered some resistance but the Zimbabwe attack were on a mission to wrap up the contest as soon as possible and did so in the 26th over when Usman Rafiq was run out.
Marumani dropped Paradkar at 22 runs. But was caught behind for a 31-ball 24, of the bowling of Jongwe.
Williams paid tribute to his teammates as well as legends like Andy Flower, who is among the commentators.
“I think having the greats of the game around us today, Andy and all of you there inspires us. I don’t know if I have played as well as this in my file.
“Having Ryan Burl and Sikandar Raza batting with me makes it a whole lot easier for me especially when they are striking the ball the way they do,” said Williams.
“I think the multiple contributions from each and every individual really pleased me. It allows one individual to really go big and really express themselves. I think all those small contributions played a massive part for us moving forward.
“The bowlers did well big time and even the fielding was pretty good although we let once chance down but I thought picking up three run-outs in a game is work in the right direction especially from where we are coming from,” said Williams. Zimbabwe will now head to Bulawayo for the Super Six games, with a healthy for points in the bag. They will play Sri Lanka, Scotland and Oman, who progressed from Group B.
“I think not much will change in the way we approach our game.
“We have found our momentum and we are looking forward to carry that forward. Obviously, it’s a different pitch, it’s a different venue, and everything about it is different but still having that crowd behind us is always like having a 12th man,” said Williams.
US captain Monank Patel was distraught with the defeat.
“We haven’t played our best cricket and I feel like mentally we need to be strong and come back stronger in the next game.
“Our batting department has been struggling and we got a few chances dropped otherwise it would have been less than 400 but still I would say lots of learnings from this game.
“One by one everyone started to get the flu in the last two days. Our main bowlers Ali Khan and Saurabh got the (flu) I think they will recover in a couple of days and I am looking forward to the next game. I think we should be able to play with our best 11,” he said.
Zimbabwe wins by 304 runs
Zimbabwe 408/6 in 50 ov (Sean Williams 174, Joylord Gumbie 78, Sikandar Raza 48; Abnishek Paradkar 3-78, Jessy Singh 2-97
US 104 in 25.1 ov (Abnishek Paradkar 24, Jessy Singh 21; Sikandar Raza 2-15, Richard Ngarava 2-25)