Amid the gloom, Williams stands tall . . . . Sean nominated for ICC Player of the Month award

Sean Williams

THE pain of missing the ICC World Cup for the second time in succession was a bitter pill to take for most of the Zimbabwe national team players after losing a crucial qualifying match to Scotland in Bulawayo on Tuesday.

The World Cup in India this October was probably going to be the last big stage for the senior players, some of whom are now on the wrong side of their 30s.

Skipper Craig Ervine turns 38 years next month, Sikandar Raza turned 37 recently while Sean Williams is set to turn 37 in a two months’ time.

The trio, which form the core of the Zimbabwe team, will be in their 40s when the next World Cup comes around. Fortunately, Zimbabwe are set to get an automatic spot at the event, which they will co-host with neighbours South Africa in 2027.

Zimbabwe have now missed two World Cup finals. They failed to make it to the 2019 event in England and Wales and will also be absent in India this October. Although the Chevrons’ current campaign ended in dejection, for Williams the 2023 World Cup Qualifier came with some personal milestones which he will cherish for a long time. The biggest consolation came from the ICC yesterday when the all-rounder was nominated for the ICC Player of the Month.

The 36-year-old had a month to remember with three centuries during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier tournament on home soil.

He was nominated alongside dynamic Sri Lanka all-rounder Wanindu Hasaranga and rising Australia star Travis Head.

England’s Tammy Beaumont, Ashleigh Gardner of Australia and Hayley Matthews of West Indies have been nominated in the women’s Player of the Month.

But for Williams, this is the second time to get the nomination. He was first presented the honour in April 2021 but lost the gong to Indian swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Williams has better chances of winning the award this time around. The Zimbabwe veteran had a month to remember during June as he smashed three centuries at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier games played in Harare, where Zimbabwe progressed to the Super Six stage with a perfect record.

The right-hander started the event in a blaze with an unbeaten 102* against Nepal and then managed scores of 91 and 23 in matches that followed against the Netherlands and West Indies.

But it was after that that Williams really shone, with the 36-year-old reaching triple figures in consecutive matches as he hit a brilliant 174 against the USA and then 142 versus Oman.

However, Zimbabwe fell agonisingly short of earning a spot in the 50-over World Cup following the defeat to Scotland on Tuesday.

Williams’ biggest challenge to the ICC gong is Sri Lankan Hasaranga.

The Sri Lanka star created history during June as he became just the second bowler behind Pakistan great Waqar Younis to claim three consecutive five-wicket hauls in ODI cricket.

Hasaranga completed the feat during the ongoing ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier tournament, where the right-armer is the leading wicket-taker with 20 wickets.

The form of Hasaranga over the last month in Zimbabwe has helped earn Sri Lanka a place at the 50-over World Cup at the end of the year and the 25-year-old is likely to be a key player for the island nation at the 10-team tournament in India.

Zimbabwe on the other hand are still processing the pain.

The Chevrons captain, Ervine, was saddened by the loss to Scotland, which reminded many of the 2018 debacle when Zimbabwe fell to a shock defeat to UAE in the decider.

“It’s a very difficult pill to swallow,” he said.

“Throughout the tournament, we played some extremely good cricket. It’s always nice to put those demons from 2018 behind us and had we gotten over the line today, nobody would have been asking about that but unfortunately, we didn’t.

“Sean Williams has been fantastic and we can take a lot of positives away. I’m extremely proud of the guys, and for the amount of work and effort.

“We’re really thankful for the crowd that has come and supported us, especially over the last few weeks. I think we are playing a very exciting brand of cricket and that is the reason the crowd are coming out to support us.”

Herald

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