Who made it, who didn’t, and everything in between from the 20 first-round matches of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifiers 2018.
The Super Six
Group A: Windies, Ireland, UAE
Group B: Zimbabwe, Scotland, Afghanistan
Out of the running
Group A: The Netherlands, Papua New Guinea
Group B: Nepal, Hong Kong
Windies on an all-conquering run
Before the start of the tournament, Carlos Brathwaite said that the Windies “didn’t want to be here”, and Jason Holder showed quiet resolve when saying, “We’re looking to win every game in the tournament … we’ve come here to beat every single person.”
Understandable, seeing that Windies are twice world champions, albeit a long time ago, and believe they belong in the marquee 50-over tournament despite their slide down the pecking order in recent years. The best way to walk the talk is to put it all out there on the field, and that’s exactly what Windies have done. The wins against United Arab Emirates, Ireland and the Netherlands were comprehensive, and so was the one against Papua New Guinea, by six wickets, but it was the one game where Windies got a bit of a scare at 58/4 chasing 201.
Importantly for Windies, they have had multiple people making a splash: Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Marlon Samuels, Jason Holder and Rovman Powell have all done well with the bat, while Kemar Roach, Brathwaite and Holder have all picked up wickets.
They look the part all right, and with four points in their kitty as they start the Super Sixes campaign, they will back themselves to go all the way.
Afghanistan’s up-and-down campaign
Afghanistan are at No.10 in the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Men’s Team Rankings for a reason: they are a fantastic team, who have come up and leaps and bounds to be among the great cricket stories in the modern era. They were the favourites, along with Zimbabwe, to qualify from Group B but, as it turned out, it required victory in their last game – their only one so far – and a lot of help from Nepal, who beat Hong Kong for their only win, for Afghanistan to get into the Super Sixes.
Getting past the first hurdle must have come as relief for the team, led by Rashid Khan in the absence of Asghar Stanikzai, who underwent surgery for appendicitis just before the event. So now they are where they had hoped to be, but defeats against Scotland, Zimbabwe and Hong Kong couldn’t have done their confidence any good, and crucially, they go into the Super Sixes with zero in the points column.
Little to separate Zimbabwe and Scotland
Zimbabwe beat Nepal by 116 runs, Afghanistan by two runs, and Hong Kong by 89 runs. Scotland beat the same opponents by four wickets, seven wickets and four wickets, though in a different sequence.
So, when the two teams met in the final league game for both sides, they had already qualified for the Super Sixes. The point of interest in the game was to see which of them would top the group and, therefore, have more points to play with. Neither, it turned out, because it ended in a fascinating tie. That left both teams on seven points, separated on the table only by net run rate – Zimbabwe ahead. But that doesn’t really matter, points do, and both have three to start the Super Sixes with.
Khadka, Ura, and other shining stars
Their teams might not have made the cut, but some of the players from Nepal, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea – the only team without a single win – and the Netherlands – the World Cricket League champions who had a disappointing run – shone bright.
For Nepal, it was Paras Khadka, the captain, who tallied 189 runs from four games. It wasn’t as good an outing as Sandeep Lamichhane, the celebrated 17-year-old leg-spinner, would have expected, but he did pick up wickets in every game, finishing with seven from four games.
Tony Ura stood out for PNG with his scintillating 151 against Ireland, one of the top teams, while Norman Vanua and Alei Nao, the pacemen, made their presence felt with eight and six wickets respectively.
Hong Kong had the top wicket-taker in Ehsan Khan, the off-spinner with 11 sticks, and Anshuman Rath did his reputation no harm with two half-centuries.
And for the Netherlands, World Cuppers in the past, Roelof van der Merwe, the former South Africa international, was excellent in the field and both Wesley Barresi and Ryan ten Doeschate played at least one good innings.
1. Tie: Zimbabwe v Scotland
2. Win by runs: Zimbabwe beat Afghanistan by 2 runs
3. Win by wickets: Ireland beat PNG, Scotland beat Hong Kong and Scotland beat Nepal by 4 wickets
Brendan Taylor (Zim): 279 from four matches – Avg 69.75, Best 100, SR 98.23
Ehsan Khan (HK): 11 from four matches – Avg 13.36, Best 4/33, ER 4.50
Centuries: 10 – Calum MacLeod’s 157* v Afghanistan the highest
Five-wicket hauls: 5 – Rohan Mustafa’s 5/26 v the Netherlands the best