Zimbabwe and Nepal pull off run-chases against Netherlands and USA

Sikandar Raza delivered an incredible all-round display to help his team to their 2nd win

Hosts Zimbabwe continued their impressive start to the 2023 ICC World Cup Qualifiers with a brilliant run chase against the Netherlands while Nepal stay in the hunt after a win over the USA.

Match 1: Zimbabwe vs Netherlands

In a dominant display of batting prowess, Zimbabwe secured a convincing six-wicket victory over the Netherlands. Chasing 316, the hosts reached the target with 55 balls to spare thanks to outstanding performances by Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza. This win marked Zimbabwe’s second consecutive triumph in the tournament.

Raza’s impact on the match was truly remarkable. He began by playing a crucial role with the ball, taking four wickets to restrict Netherlands to a total of 315 runs. However, it was his explosive batting display that stole the show. Raza unleashed a relentless assault, showcasing his power-hitting abilities and reaching the fastest-ever ODI century by a Zimbabwean batsman. He remained unbeaten on a magnificent 102 off just 54 deliveries, which included six boundaries and eight towering sixes.

While Raza dominated the headlines, the contribution of Sean Williams cannot be overlooked. Williams played a crucial role in managing the game’s flow. Coming to the crease in the 14th over, he took his time to settle in before unleashing a flurry of aggressive strokes, accumulating 48 runs between the 17th and 21st overs. 

Williams maintained a steady scoring rate throughout his innings, and when Raza joined him at the crease in the 25th over, the duo took the game away from the Netherlands.

Although the Netherlands had their fair share of dropped catches, the unstoppable partnership between Williams and Raza proved too much for them to handle. 

Raza’s authoritative batting display, including three consecutive sixes off Shariz Ahmad in the 39th over, further solidified Zimbabwe’s dominance at the Harare Sports Club. The Netherlands could only rue their missed opportunities, as Zimbabwe’s batting juggernaut continued to roll on.

Raza’s exceptional century and Williams’ astute game management propelled Zimbabwe to victory, leaving spectators to wonder if any target set by the Netherlands would have been sufficient. As a consolation, the Netherlands’ total of 315 runs equaled their joint-highest score in ODIs, but it was not enough to overcome the formidable Zimbabwean side.

Match 2: Nepal vs USA

After winning the toss, Nepal captain Rohit Poudel put the USA into bat. Karan KC wreaked havoc on the USA top order with a remarkable bowling spell of 4 for 11 in seven overs, setting the stage for a convincing six-wicket victory. Despite a valiant century by Shayan Jahangir, who remained unbeaten on 100 off 79 balls, USA faltered and was bowled out for 207 in 49 overs. Bhim Sharki’s unbeaten 77 ensured Nepal chased down the target with ease, crossing the finish line with seven overs to spare.

Karan made an immediate impact by dismissing Steven Taylor with an inswinging yorker, claiming an lbw decision. With USA captain Monank Patel absent due to illness, Sai Mukkamalla was pushed up the order to No. 3 but fell on his first delivery, edging an outswinger to Aarif Sheikh at first slip. 

Karan KC’s 4-wicket haul helped restrict the USA to 207 in 49 overs

USA’s stand-in captain Aaron Jones survived some close calls before succumbing to Karan’s delivery that found the edge and carried to Kushal Bhurtel at gully. Nosthush Kenjige, promoted to No. 5, also fell cheaply, edging to slip, leaving USA struggling at 18 for 4 in the 10th over. Karan’s outstanding new-ball performance eventually earned him the Player of the Match honors.

Gajanand Singh was dismissed for 26 leaving Sushant Modani to fight hard at the other end. He scored 42 off 71 balls, but eventually fell to Lalit Rajbanshi’s left-arm spin, losing his middle stump. Nepal did well to restrict the USA to a comfortable 207. 

During the chase, Nepal encountered little trouble. Aasif Sheikh departed for 12, dismissed by Saurabh Netravalkar with a debatable lbw decision. However, Bhurtel and Sharki built a solid partnership of 49 runs, which ended when the former top-edged a slog sweep back to Kenjige.

Captain Paudel made a cautious 16 before mistiming a shot and offering a catch to Jessy Singh at mid-off. However, Bhim Sharki led a 74-run partnership with Airee, guiding Nepal to victory. Airee’s unbeaten 39 off 32 balls included several powerful straight drives. One of them was the winning stroke.

Nepal stays in the hunt for a coveted World Cup berth by winning their first game of the tournament. The situation looks bleak for the USA, who have now lost 2 games in 2 matches.