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A thrilling two-run victory over Afghanistan has set Zimbabwe on course for a spot in the ICC Cricket World Cup for the 10th time in a row, and when they take on Hong Kong on Saturday, they will want to get themselves more points to be in a stronger position in the Super Sixes. The win over Afghanistan made it two in two for the hosts of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 after they beat Nepal earlier, while Hong Kong have won one and lost one so far in the tournament. Zimbabwe came into the qualifiers on the back of a disappointing run in limited-overs cricket – they had lost the one-day international as well as the Twenty20 International series against Afghanistan – but have turned things around in familiar environs. The crowd support has been outstanding, and Sikandar Raza, more than anyone else, has responded to the adulation in kind: scores of 123 and 60, and three-wicket hauls in both games. Brendan Taylor hasn’t been too far behind, with innings of 100 and 89, and their bowlers were excellent in stopping Afghanistan short despite a small total on the board, Brian Vitori and Blessing Muzarabani, along with Raza, taking the lead.
Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, Vitori has been suspended from bowling in international cricket with immediate effect and that will force a change of plans. Hong Kong, meanwhile, failed to get past the Scotland hurdle but have crossed a big one by beating Afghanistan when they came back well to register a 30-run victory (DLS method). A four-wicket haul from Ehsan Khan made the difference in the end, but they were also helped by Anshuman Rath’s battling knock of 65 after being reduced to 43/3. A confident Ehsan Khan, whose 4/33 was his career-best effort, has since said that Hong Kong can beat any team, while Babar Hayat, the captain, said after the Afghanistan game that the result didn’t surprise him. “These guys have been performing well for the last three or four years,” he said. “We’ve been working really hard for the last two years, and we’re capable of getting into the Super Six. Today, we showed that we are capable.” A strong start, which Nizakat Khan, Aizaz Khan and Ehsan Khan failed to provide against Afghanistan, will help the Hong Kong cause.
Zimbabwe: Cephas Zhuwawo, Solomon Mire, Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor(w), Craig Ervine, Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, Graeme Cremer©, Kyle Jarvis, Tendai Chatara, Blessing Muzarabani
Hong Kong: Nizakat Khan, Aizaz Khan, Babar Hayat©, Anshuman Rath, Scott McKechnie(w), Shahid Wasif, Tanwir Afzal, Waqas Barkat, Ehsan Khan, Ehsan Nawaz, Nadeem Ahmed