Our pick of the top moments from the first round of matches at the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018.
Sikandar smashes 100... and a car window
Zimbabwe started their ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 with a bang, courtesy of a 173-run stand between Sikandar Raza and Brendan Taylor in their opening group game against Nepal. Raza, in particular, was in a belligerent mood as he cracked a 66-ball 123 that included seven fours and nine sixes, one of which went out of the ground and smashed the window pane of a car stationed outside the ground. Everyone in Zimbabwe was delighted... except perhaps the owner of the car.
Universe Bossing it
With Chris Gayle in the mix, there is never a shortage of entertainment at any stage. The hard-hitting left-hander began his ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 against United Arab Emirates with a swashbuckling 93-ball 127 laced with seven fours and 11 sixes, many of which might have cleared the boundary twice over!
In what was probably the best innings of the group stage of the Qualifiers, Tony Ura struck a splendid century making the world stand up and take notice of the Papua New Guinea opener. Out of a team total of 235, he alone smashed 151 in 142 deliveries, or 64 per cent of his team's runs. If ever there was a one-man show, this was it.
Afghanistan’s last-wicket pair needed four to win. But Brian Vitori (2/31) had Shapoor Zadran caught behind from the third ball of the over to complete a remarkable comeback win. Glorious celebrations came not only from the home crowd, but also the players, who sank to their knees or raced around the ground in jubilation.
PNG had Windies in a spot of bother at 58/4 while defending 201, but a steely 99* by Windies captain Jason Holder saw the side through. The moment of the match came later, when Windies all-rounder Marlon Samuels, who has more than 300 international appearances behind him, delivered a small inspirational lecture to the PNG players. He offered valuable insights on technical aspects of the game and how to handle pressure. Maybe it was a day not completely lost for PNG.
Hong Kong and rain derail Afghanistan
Having lost their first two games against Scotland and Zimbabwe, Afghanistan were already in troubled waters going into their penultimate league game against Hong Kong. Mohammad Nabi and Mujeed Ur Rahman kept Hong Kong to 241/8, but a batting collapse and rain interruption meant that Afghanistan could only manage 195/9 in 46 overs and lost the game by 30 runs (DLS method). The despondent Afghanistan faces said it all.
Coming into the Qualifier, Afghanistan were considered top contenders, so them losing the opening three games was surprising, to say the least. In the last group game against Nepal, chasing 195 for a win and a chance to keep Super Sixes hopes alive, Rashid Khan, the No.1 T20I bowler, promoted himself to open the batting in a bid to boost Afghanistan's net run rate.
Rovman Powell shatters the media box!
Coming into bat at a tricky 83/5 against Ireland, Rovman Powell had to curb his natural aggressive style of play to guide his side to safety. His first 20 runs took 50 deliveries, but once the death overs came, he let himself loose. He smoked seven sixes during his knock, the last of which smashed one of the glass panes of the press box, to reach his maiden one-day international century. At least the press got an autograph!
Lewis snipers Barresi
Aim and shoot! Evin Lewis ran in from the deep, collected the ball in the mid-wicket region and sent in an pinpoint throw to the bowler’s end to have the Netherlands’ Wesley Barresi run out. With rain clouds threatening and DLS coming into the picture, it was the perfect time to break a dangerous partnership. And didn’t he know it!
Pieter Seelaar plucks a stunner
With Evin Lewis going at a rate of knots, the Netherlands needed some sort of brilliance to stop the rampaging southpaw, and Pieter Seelaar provided just that. Stationed at backward point, Seelar flung to his left to hold on to a full-blooded cut off Lewis's blade sending the opener back for 84.
Chris Gayle is always a big wicket for any opponent, and to dismiss him inside the first 10 overs has always been on teams' to-do lists. Ireland's Tim Murtagh did just that when he got Gayle caught behind. If there ever was any doubt of how much the wicket meant to him, his celebrations would have offered a clue. He later again provided a moment of brilliance, running out Carlos Brathwaite with a direct-hit from mid-on to send the hard-hitting batsman packing.