Zimbabwe – 268 all out in 49.5 overs (Sikandar Raza 68, Ryan Burl 50, Craig Ervine 47; Keemo Paul 3/61, Alzarri Joseph 2/42, Akeal Hosein 2/45)
West Indies – 233 all out in 44.4 overs (Kyle Mayers 56, Roston Chase 44, Shai Hope 44; Tendai Chatara 3/52, Richard Ngarava 2/25, Blessing Muzarabani 2/33)
Zimbabwe won by 35 runs
Zimbabwe sealed their place in the Super Six stage of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2023 with a perfect record after beating the West Indies by 35 runs in a Group A blockbuster match played in front of a Harare Sports Club packed to the rafters on Saturday.
The Caribbean side won the toss and put the hosts in to bat first.
Joylord Gumbie and Craig Ervine gave Zimbabwe a very good start, as they put on 63 together by good play before Gumbie was out lbw to Keemo Paul for 26 in the 16th over, a ball that nipped into him and trapped him on the back foot.
Wessly Madhevere soon followed him out, caught at mid-on off the left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein for two.
Zimbabwe began to get into some trouble when at 90 Craig Ervine, having scored 47 off 58 balls, was caught at extra cover while attempting a reverse sweep off Roston Chase.
This became 112 for four when Sean Williams, the most aggressive batter so far, miscued a pull off Alzarri Joseph and was well caught near the square-leg boundary for 23 off 26 balls.
Just when it was needed, though, a fine partnership developed between Sikandar Raza and Ryan Burl, who came together in the 25th over.
For a while the run of the game was in their favour, as Raza was twice missed off difficult chances early in his innings, while Burl also had a life.
But they went after the bowling in fine style and seemed to be turning the game around as they added 87 runs for the fifth wicket in almost 16 overs.
Burl reached his fifty before Raza, but without any addition he was adjudged lbw to a ball from Hosein.
His 50 came off 57 balls and included a six and five fours.
Clive Madande did not last long, skying a catch in the deep – his shoulder popping out in the process – when he had scored five.
In the meantime, Raza was attacking in brilliant style, but this came to an end at 232 for seven in the 46th over, as he tried to pull Kyle Mayers for six but was very well caught low down at long leg by Joseph.
He had scored 68 off 58 balls, with two sixes and six fours.
With less than five overs left, the remaining batters had to hit out at virtually every ball and the tail-enders tried their best as Zimbabwe finished with an all-out score of 268 just one ball before the end.
Joseph was the best of the West Indies bowlers, finishing with two wickets for 42 in his 10 overs.
Paul took three wickets, but was expensive, conceding 61 runs.
When the West Indies went in, Wellington Masakadza opened the bowling with Tendai Chatara but they could not find the early breakthrough as Brandon King and Mayers scored 39 runs in the first six overs.
Then Blessing Muzarabani and Richard Ngarava took over the bowling and immediately changed the situation.
Muzarabani’s third ball had King caught at slip by Raza for 20, scored off only 12 balls, and Ngarava in his second over had the next man, Johnson Charles, popping up a catch to short leg for one.
The West Indies were now 46 for two in the 10th over.
Mayers, bogged down, took some risks, hitting the bowlers for some powerful fours, but Zimbabwe missed a chance of running out his new partner, Shai Hope.
Mayers continued to take some risks and go for his strokes, but he took one too many when he tried to hit Masakadza for six, only to be caught on the long-off boundary by Muzarabani above his head, perhaps the only man tall enough to reach it.
He had scored 56 off 72 balls, with a six and eight fours and at his departure the total was now 110 for three in the 21st over, a crucial point in the match.
Nicholas Pooran joined Hope and went for his strokes – in Masakadza’s next over he inflicted rare punishment on the spinner, hitting him for two sixes and a four in three balls.
However, Zimbabwe struck another blow when a ball from Raza kept rather low, surprising and bowling Hope for 30 – 134 for four in the 24th over.
The balance swung back towards the West Indies as Pooran, now partnered by Chase, hit up a quick 34 off 36 balls, taking the score to 175 in the 32nd over.
Ngarava and Muzarabani returned to the attack and again they did the trick for Zimbabwe.
Ngarava swung a ball in to Pooran, who tried to turn it to leg, missed and was adjudged lbw.
In the next over Muzarabani removed the new man, Rovman Powell, with an off-cutter, also lbw, for one, and the score was suddenly 180 for six in the 33rd over.
The experienced Jason Holder now joined Chase and the pair began to pull the innings around with steady batting, passing the 200-run mark in comfort.
The score reached 219 when Williams, standing in as captain after Ervine got injured while batting, decided to give Chatara another burst, and it proved to be an inspired move.
His first delivery saw Holder (19) dab at a ball outside the off stump and edge a catch to the wicket-keeper Gumbie, standing in for Madande.
Three runs later, Paul played a bad shot to fall lbw to Raza – eight down for 222.
This left a heavy burden on Chase, as the only recognised batter left, but two runs later Chatara picked up his wicket, as he tried to cut a delivery and dragged it on to his stumps after scoring a valiant 44.
The West Indies now knew they had lost, and defeat did not take long, as in his next over Chatara completed the sensational victory by having Joseph hitting a catch straight to Raza.
It was a wonderful treat for the Zimbabwe fans packed into Harare Sports Club, with many diverted to watch on the big screen at the adjacent rugby club when the venue reached capacity by 11am.