Marlon Samuels came to West Indies' rescue yet again as he guided his side to a comfortable four-wicket win over Zimbabwe in their Super Six match of the ICC World Cup Qualifiers at the Harare Sports Club last evening. The West Indies chased down a 290-run target for the loss of six wickets with six balls to spare.
Evin Lewis laid the foundation of a successful run-chase with a brisk 75-ball 67 with seven fours and a six, before Shai Hope and Marlon Samuels came to the party by cracking attractive half-centuries. Samuels was caught at the wicket after scoring 86 off 80 balls with six fours and four sixes, while Hope was brilliantly caught by Sikandar Raza after scoring a 97-ball 76 with five fours and a six.
When Samuels and Hope departed in a space of four balls after adding 135 runs for the third wicket, the West Indies still required 41 off 32 balls and despite losing Jason Holder and Shimron Hetmyer, the Caribbean side coasted home after Rovman Powell chipped in with 15 and Ashley Nurse scored eight.
Earlier, Brendan Taylor scored a magnificent 138, the first time he reached the magical three-figure mark against the West Indies and 10th overall, which boosted the home side to 289 in 50 overs.
Taylor, who had joined Nottinghamshire post the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 but returned to Zimbabwe colours last October, was at his brilliant best as he shred the Windies bowling to pieces. His drives were as elegant and crafty as his cuts, pulls and sweeps, while his reverse sweeps and sliced shots over the wicketkeeper were equally effective and attractive to watch.
Taylor reached his half-century from 65 balls with eight fours, while he completed his 10th career century in his 181st match from 105 balls with 16 fours.
Taylor had walked onto the field at the score of 28 for two and was the sixth batsman out at 246. Taylor added 79 runs for the fifth wicket with Sikandar Raza (22) after he had put on 76 for the fourth wicket with Sean Williams (34).
Opener Solomon Mire, who retired on 22 and needed treatment for swelling and blurred vision with mild nerve compression in his right eye after Kemar Roach's bouncer was stuck between the top of his helmet and grill, returned in the 42nd over at the score of 234 for five to hit a quick-fire 45 with three fours and two sixes as Zimbabwe collected 132 runs in the last 20 overs, including 63 off the last 10 overs.
Captain Jason Holder and Kemar Roach were the bowlers who ensured that Zimbabwe didn't beat them out of the match by bowling exceptionally well in the last 10 overs.
Holder, who also claimed the top two wickets, finished with four for 35 while Roach ended up with figures of three for 55. Keemo Paul bagged two for 55.
With the win, the West Indies lead the qualifying table with six points, but they will still required to avoid a defeat against Scotland as the battle for the two remaining places in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 hots up.
The result means the winner of the West Indies versus Scotland match on Wednesday will become the first side to qualify for the World Cup, while Zimbabwe can become the second side to progress to the event proper if they defeat the United Arab Emirates on Thursday.
On the other hand, if Afghanistan defeat the UAE on Tuesday, Scotland defeat the West Indies on Wednesday and the UAE upset Zimbabwe on Thursday, then the Caribbean side and either Afghanistan or Ireland will finish on equal points and net run-rate will decide which side joins Scotland for the World Cup, which will be played from May 30 to July 14.
In another scenario, if the West Indies finish on eight points following a victory over Scotland, Afghanistan defeat the UAE and the UAE upsets Zimbabwe, then the Ireland versus Afghanistan match will be a shoot-out for the second qualifier behind the Windies.
(With Agency Inputs)