Three is perfect!

Despite a spirited 85 from Anshy Rath; Zimbabwe yesterday strolled to an easy 89-run victory over Hong Kong in the teams’ Group B match at Queens Sports Club.

Defending 263, the hosts put in a strong all-round bowling display to complete their third successive victory of the Cricket World Cup Qualifier.

Not for the first time, off-spinner Sikandar Raza was perhaps the pick of the Zimbabwe bowlers; his three wickets costing just 30 from his 10 overs as Hong Kong’s run rate never looked like reaching the level necessary to mount a realistic challenge.

But the wickets were spread around, with Kyle Jarvis (2-20) and Tendai Chatara (1-18) making early inroads with the new ball to make up for the loss of Brian Vitori.

Leg-spinning skipper Graeme Cremer took 2-42 and slow left-armer Sean Williams took 2-44, with Hong Kong’s next top-scorer after Rath their wicket-keeper Scott McKechnie, who made just 18 off 48 balls.

With No. 11 Nadeem Ahmed up the other end, there was at least an outside chance of Rath reaching a consolation century but he switched to all-out attack in an effort to get there and was eventually caught on the cover boundary off Kyle Jarvis as Zimbabwe sealed what was, in the end, a convincing win.

Earlier, Hamilton Masakadza enjoyed a welcome return to form with a measured 110-ball 84 before the Hong Kong bowlers, led by Ehsan Nawaz, struck at the death to restrict the hosts to 263-9.

Put into bat, Zimbabwe got off to a flying start courtesy Cephas Zhuwao, who hit six fours and three sixes in a 25-ball 45 before holing out at backward square-leg off Nawaz.

His 53-run association with Solomon Mire took just 4.5 overs. Mire, too, departed soon for 20 after being undone by the left-arm spin of Nadeem Ahmed.

Coming in at No.3, Masakadza curbed his natural aggressive instincts as he shepherded the innings well on his way to his 33rd one-day international half-century.

He found a perfect ally in Brendan Taylor and the experienced duo carved a 91-run stand for the third wicket in a shade over 18 overs.

Just when Taylor looked set for another big one, Nawaz struck as he lured the former Zimbabwe captain into a drive which he could only hit as far as Anshuman Rath at cover.

With a 300-plus score looming, Hong Kong did well to pull things back.

Aizaz Khan, the medium pacer, was at the thick of things as he first claimed the key wicket of Sikandar Raza for 10, and then accounted for Masakadza in his very next over with Nawaz plucking a stunner diving forward at short third man.

At 216-5 in the 38th over, Zimbabwe were forced to rebuild, and the Hong Kong bowlers made sure the hosts were made to earn every run.

Craig Ervine and Sean Williams forged a brief 24-run stand for the seventh wicket before the latter became Nawaz’s third victim.

Zimbabwe were unable to find the late impetus with a flurry of wickets hurting their chances, and they eventually finished with a much smaller total than they might have hoped for.

Nawaz was the pick of the Hong Kong bowlers with 4-47 in his nine overs, while Ehsan Khan.

and Aizaz chipped in with two wickets each. – ICC

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