Marlon Samuels batting

Marlon Samuels during his knock of 86 against Zimbabwe. Photo courtesy of ICC

The fifth highest successful run-chase by the Windies against Zimbabwe in a Super Six match of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 set-up their mouth-watering winner-takes-all match against defending champions Scotland as the battle for the two remaining places in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 hots up.

At the Harare Sports Club on Monday, the Windies chased down a 290-run target for the loss of six wickets with six balls to spare. The result means the winner of the Windies 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 Windies on Wednesday and the UAE upset Zimbabwe on Thursday, then the Windies 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 30 May to 14 July.

In another scenario, if the Windies 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.

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 Windies still required 41 off 32 balls and despite losing Jason Holder and Shimron Hetmyer, the Windies 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 Windies 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.

With nearly 8,000 chanting and clapping spectators behind him, 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 bat 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.

Scores in brief
Windies beat Zimbabwe by four wickets, Harare Sports Club
Zimbabwe 289 all out, 50 overs (Brendan Taylor 138, Solomon Mire 45, Sean Williams 34, Sikandar Raza 22; Jason Holder 4-35, Kemar Roach 3-55, Keemo Paul 2-55)
Windies 290-6, 49 overs (Marlon Samuels 86, Shai Hope 76, Evin Lewis 64; Blessing Muzarabani 2-36, Graeme Cremer 2-63)
Player of the Match – Marlon Samuels (Windies)

Upcoming matches:
• Tuesday, 20 March – UAE v Afghanistan (S6), Old Hararians
• Wednesday, 21 March – Windies v Scotland (S6), Harare Sports Club
• Thursday, 22 March – UAE v Zimbabwe (S6), Harare Sports Club
• Friday, 23 March – Ireland v Afghanistan (S6), Harare Sports Club)
• Sunday, 25 March – Final; Harare Sports Club

Super Six points table

Windies 4 3 1 0 6 0.529
Zimbabwe 4 2 1 1 5 0.520
Scotland 4 2 1 1 5 0.315
Ireland 4 2 2 0 4 0.474
Afghanistan 3 1 2 0 2 -0.023
UAE 3 0 3 0 0 -2.493