Hosts Zimbabwe produced a second big chase in succession to continue their fine start to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2023 in Harare.
Sikandar Raza’s unbeaten century carried his team to a six-wicket victory over the Netherlands as Zimbabwe successfully chased down the target of 316 set by the Dutch.
That follows an opening victory over Nepal in Group A, leaving Zimbabwe in a good position in the race for a spot in the Super Six.
Nepal bounced back from that opening loss to record their first win of the campaign, as they beat the USA by six wickets.
Bhim Sharki was the star of the show, making 77 not out, as Nepal chased down 211 against the US, who have now lost twice in as many matches.
Raza reached his century off just 54 balls, the fastest ever by a Zimbabwean in ODI cricket. He was spectacular with the bat, smashing eight sixes in his 54-ball knock as he carried on the good work of skipper Craig Ervine (50) and Sean Williams (91).
The Dutch had looked in good position at the halfway stage, making 315 for six as Vikramjit Singh (88) and Scott Edwards (83) gave them a dream start to their tournament.
Singh and Max O’Dowd (59) put on 120 for the first wicket before Raza bowled O’Dowd, before getting Wesley Barresi out in the same way.
A 96-run partnership between Singh and Edwards continued the Netherlands’ fine batting effort with Raza again the man to find the breakthrough, removing Singh, on the way to figures of four for 55.
Richard Ngarava (2/40) chipped in with a couple of useful wickets, including the skipper, but Saqib Zulfiqur’s 34 not out from 31 balls ensured the Dutch went into the interval feeling good.
Zimbabwe needed to start quickly, and they did just that, Ervine and Joylord Gumbie (40) putting on 80 for the first wicket before the captain was removed by Singh.
Gumbie and Williams then added another 62, and while Shariz Ahmed claimed the wicket of the former, as well as Wessly Madhevere, Zimbabwe were comfortably keeping up with the asking rate.
Raza joined Williams and the pair added 84 in ten overs to ease any tension, and while Williams eventually departed, it was left to his partner to complete a magnificent all-round performance to see the side home.
Nepal up and running with US success
Having suffered the same fate as the Dutch against Zimbabwe, Nepal was in need of a win against the USA and got it by six wickets.
Karan KC (4/33) did the damage with the ball to restrict the Americans to 207, before Bhim Sharki carried Nepal home with seven overs to spare.
Karan was sensational early on after Nepal had chosen to bowl first, taking four wickets in the first ten overs to reduce the USA to 18 for four.
Sushant Modani (42) and Gajanand Singh (26) started to rebuild, adding 47 before the latter edged Dipendra Singh Airee to slip.
That brought keeper Shayan Jahangir to the crease and he counter-attacked in style, making 100 not out from just 79 balls as wickets continued to fall at the other end.
Gulsan Jha (3/52) finished the job with an over to spare, rattling through the tail to leave Nepal with 208 to win, despite Jahangir’s maiden ODI century.
Despite Aasif Sheikh falling leg before to Saurabh Netravalkar for 12, that total never looked like being enough, Kushal Burtel (39) and Sharki adding 49 for the second wicket.
Skipper Rohit Paudel and Kushal Malla both made starts before falling, leaving Nepal on 137 for four as Airee joined Sharki.
Any danger of a collapse was quickly averted though as the pair added 74 to carry Nepal to a comfortable win.
Ireland look to get back on track against Scotland
Attention will turn back to Group B on Wednesday when Ireland take on Scotland in Bulawayo in one of two games.
Having fallen to defeat to Oman in their opener, Ireland will be keen to make amends at the Queens Sports Club against the Scots, who will be playing their first game of the tournament.
The other game sees Oman looking to build on that Ireland success when they face the United Arab Emirates.
The UAE were comfortably beaten by Sri Lanka in their first game and will now face an Oman team full of confidence in the encounter at the Bulawayo Athletic Club.
Scores in brief;
Zimbabwe beat Netherlands at Harare Sports Club, Harare by six wickets
Netherlands 315/6 in 50 overs (Vikramjit Singh 88, Scott Edwards 83; Sikandar Raza 4/55, Richard Ngarava 2/40)
Zimbabwe 319/4 in 40.5 overs (Sikandar Raza 102*, Sean Williams 91; Shariz Ahmed 2/62)
Nepal beat USA at Takashinga Cricket Club, Harare by six wickets
USA 207 all out in 49 overs (Shayan Jahangir 100*, Sushant Modani 42; Karan KC 4/33, Gulsan Jha 3/52)
Nepal 211/4 in 43 overs (Bhim Sharki 77, Dipendra Singh Airee 39*; Steven Taylor 1/14, Saurabh Netravalkar 1/29)
Wednesday 21 June – Fixtures: Group B
Ireland v Scotland at Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo
Oman v United Arab Emirates at Bulawayo Athletic Club, Bulawayo