The big stories from the third day's action at the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe, as Hong Kong upset Afghanistan, and Scotland kept up their impressive start.
HONG KONG COME TO THE PARTY
It's hotting up in Group B, where Afghanistan's hopes are hanging by a thread after a third straight defeat. But while their troubles – exacerbated by Mohammad Shahzad's two-game suspension – will naturally hog the headlines, the rise of Hong Kong is yet another intriguing story to emerge from an unpredictable first week.
Particularly impressive has been the work of 20-year-old Anshy Rath, a left-handed strokemaker educated at Harrow School in England who’s already played for Middlesex's second XI. After a duck against Scotland, he made a classy 65 against Afghanistan, by far the standout innings of a match that saw HK open their account in the tournament.
SCOTLAND MAKE IT THREE FROM THREE
The Scots are sitting pretty at the top of Group B after beating Nepal by four wickets in Bulawayo to make it three wins on the bounce. The victory confirmed Scotland’s place in the Super Sixes and confidence will be growing in the camp that they can secure a fourth World Cup appearance.
COETZER’S CAPTAIN’S KNOCK
If Scotland are to take one of the two qualification places, their captain Kyle Coetzer is likely to have a big say in it. The 33-year-old made his experience count against Nepal, keeping a cool head as wickets fell around him to finish unbeaten on 88, following his 41 not out in the preceding victory over Hong Kong.
LAMICHHANE’S A KEEPER
Well, a leg-spinner, technically, but Sandeep Lamichhane, the Nepalese teenage sensation, is a name we’re going to be hearing plenty more of in the years ahead.
Only 17, and with Indian Premier League and Caribbean Premier League contracts already in his back pocket, the youngster showed his class once again during Nepal’s defeat to Scotland. Snaring Matthew Cross in his first over before trapping the dangerous Richie Berrington lbw, Lamichhane finished with figures of 2/31, including three maidens.
UAE EASE PAST NETHERLANDS
After a heavy defeat against the West Indies, UAE got their campaign back on track with a comfortable six-wicket victory over the Netherlands. They face a key clash against Ireland on Monday 12 February, while the Netherlands, with two losses from two, face an uphill struggle to qualify for the Super Sixes, especially since they are still to face the dangerous Windies.
MUSTAFA’S MASTERLY PERFORMANCE
UAE captain Rohan Mustafa was everywhere in the field against the Netherlands. He ended a strong opening stand of 52 by pinning Max O’Dowd lbw, and then struck regularly thereafter on his way to a five-wicket haul. And even when he wasn’t bowling he was involved, running out the dangerous Ben Cooper after a mix-up.
Earlier in the tournament Mustafa starred against Nepal with the bat, scoring 95 to underpin his side’s 221, and the all-rounder is integral to UAE’s hopes going forward.
HOLDER AND WISER
It’s been a stirring sight to witness Marlon Samuels and Chris Gayle turning out again for the West Indies. Gayle has let his bat do the talking, smashing 11 sixes in the first match against UAE, while Samuels – 20 years a pro, twice a world champion – could be seen conducting an impromptu post-match pow-wow with his PNG opponents.
Holding it all together is the West Indies’ seriously impressive 26-year-old skipper. Jason Holder's maturity, intelligence and burgeoning brilliance – his unbeaten 99 rescuing a stuttering run-chase against PNG to bring victory by six wickets – is going a long way to uniting this Windies team. And we all know how dangerous they can be when pulling together.
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