Captain Craig Ervine led from the front as Zimbabwe and West Indies kicked off their ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 Qualifier campaigns with comfortable wins in Harare.

Zimbabwe skipper Ervine joined forces with Sean Williams as both batters’ centuries propelled the hosts to a composed eight-wicket triumph over Nepal.

And just a few miles down the road in the Zimbabwean capital, Jason Holder and Shai Hope helped haul the West Indies to a similarly straightforward 39-run victory over the USA as the hotly-anticipated culmination of the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup qualification process got underway.

Gajanand Singh
Gajanand Singh celebrates his first ODI ton. Photos courtesy of ICC

West Indies prove too strong for battling USA
Holder, Hope, Johnson Charles and Roston Chase all combined to fire the West Indies to a composed 39-run win over the USA at Takashinga Sports Club.

All four West Indian stars made first innings half-centuries and despite Gajanand Singh’s brilliant hundred for the Americans in reply, two wickets apiece for Kyle Mayers and Alzarri Joseph helped restrict the underdogs to a total of 258 for seven.

American captain Monank Patel opted to field first in a decision that reaped almost immediate – and stunning – rewards in south-west Harare.

Patel’s side required just 2.1 overs to make the breakthrough as left-arm seamer Saurabh Netravalkar had West Indian opener Brandon King trapped LBW without scoring.

And one became two just three overs later when Kyle Phillip bowled Mayers to reduce Hope’s stuttering side to 14 for two.

Hope and Charles soon set about rebuilding the innings, however, constructing a polished partnership of 115 as both batters brought up half-centuries.

But they were both dismissed in quick succession as Hope (54) fell to Nosthush Kenjige and Steven Taylor had Charles caught for 66.

Chase and Nicholas Pooran continued to come at the Americans as the experienced pair put on an important 50 partnership.

Pooran motored to a dazzling 43 off just 28 balls – including three sixes – while Chase (55) made a measured run-a-ball half-century.

Netravalkar, Phillip and Taylor soon begun to chip away at the West Indies’ lower-order as Holder’s heroics at the other end – 56 off just 40 balls – helped salvage his side’s innings and haul them to a total of 297 all out in the final over.

American openers Taylor and Sushant Modani looked comfortable in reply before Holder made the breakthrough and triggered a flurry of early wickets.

The West Indian all-rounder removed Modani in the eighth over before Mayers joined the party to dismiss both Taylor and Patel.

Joseph helped make further inroads into the American middle-order but they encountered considerable resistance from a combination of Singh, who made a battling century, Shayan Jahangir and Nosthush Kenjige.

The fluent left-hander brought up his hundred in the final over of the innings after Jahangir had made 39 and Kenjige ended on 34 not out at the other end.
But the experienced West Indian attack proved too strong for the Americans to overcome as the two-time ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup champions got their campaign off to the perfect start.

The ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 Qualifier continues in Zimbabwe on Monday, with Sri Lanka taking on the United Arab Emirates and Ireland locking horns with Oman in Bulawayo.

Sri Lanka grabbed ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup glory back in 1996 and enter their Qualifier campaign as one of the red-hot favorites to book their place in the Indian showpiece later this year.

While in the day’s other Group B contest, Andrew Balbirnie’s Ireland arrive off the back of their Test match defeat against England at Lord’s hoping to return to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup after missing out on a spot back in 2019.

Craig Ervine
Craig Ervine bats during Zimbabwe win over Nepal.

Ervine and Williams steer hosts to assured triumph
Player of the match Ervine delivered a captain’s display as his century helped guide Zimbabwe to victory over Nepal.

Ervine and Williams – whose 70-ball hundred marked the fastest by a Zimbabwean batter in one-day international cricket – combined to construct a decisive 164-run partnership as the hosts confidently chased down Nepal’s 290 for eight, which was spearheaded by Kushal Bhurtel’s blockbuster 99 at the top of the order.

The Zimbabwe skipper won the toss and elected to put the Nepalese into bat on a glorious day at Harare Sports Club.

But that decision looked to have backfired by the halfway point in the innings as Nepal openers Bhurtel and Aasif Sheikh racked up the runs.

Bhurtel embarked on a particularly eye-catching innings as he swatted aside the Zimbabwean attack and navigated his way to an impressive half-century.

And at the other end, wicketkeeper Sheikh adopted a more conservative approach to help fire the duo to a rock-solid 100 partnership in the 23rd over.

Bhurtel looked all set to bring up a brilliant century but was stunned just one run short by an accurate Wellington Masakadza delivery.

The Zimbabwe seamer fired one through the Nepalese opener’s defenses to make a much-needed breakthrough and dash Bhurtel’s hopes of a memorable Qualifier hundred.

Sheikh was dismissed for a well-made 66 just two overs later before Kushal Malla helped steady the ship with a run-a-ball 41 at number three.

But Zimbabwe soon begun to take wickets at regular intervals as Richard Ngarava (4/43) helped reel Nepal in and restrict them to a score of 290 for eight off their 50 overs.

The hosts’ chase, led by skipper and opening batter Ervine, got off to a steady start before Joylord Gumbie (25) was removed LBW by Nepal seamer Sompal Kami.

Wessly Madhevere came and went for a steady contribution of 32 but when he was removed by Gulsan Jha, that brought Williams to the crease.

And from that point on the hosts never looked like relinquishing their ever-increasing grip on the contest, with Williams, ably assisted by anchor Ervine, accelerating throughout his innings to make Zimbabwean ODI history and send the buoyant home crowd into raptures in Harare.

Scores in brief
West Indies beat USA at Takashinga Sports Club, Highfield, Harare by 39 runs
West Indies 297 all out in 49.3 overs (Johnson Charles 66, Jason Holder 56; Saurabh Netravalkar 3/53, Steven Taylor 3/53)
USA 258/7 in 50 overs (Gajanand Singh 101 not out, Shayan Jahangir 39; Kyle Mayers 2/30, Alzarri Joseph 2/68)

Zimbabwe beat Nepal at Harare Sports Club, Harare by eight wickets
Nepal 290/8 in 50 overs (Kushal Bhurtel 99, Aasif Sheikh 66; Richard Ngarava 4/43, Wellington Masakadza 2/42)
Zimbabwe 291/2 in 44.1 overs (Craig Ervine 121 not out, Sean Williams 102 not out; Sompal Kami 1/30, Gulsan Jha 1/56)