The final qualfiier for the 2023 Men's ODI World Cup in India later this year is underway, and hosts Zimbabwe have started well with a win over Nepal today at the Harare Sports Club.
Zimbabwe captain Craig Ervine won the toss and asked Nepal to bat first in front of a home crowd that was loud even at 9am on a Sunday morning, and only got louder as more people came to the ground throughout the morning.
The noise came even if there was little to cheer for during the opening stages of Nepal's innings as Kushal Bhurtel and Aasif Skeikh put on 171 before Bhurtel finally fell one run short of a century in the 32nd over. Skeikh fell soon afterwards for 66.
The old Nepal would have folded from there but coach Monty Desai seems to have brought a new found resolve to Nepal's batters, and the third wicket pairing of Rohit Paudel and Kushal Malla put on 72 before Paudel was dismissed for 31. It's perhaps indicitive of that new Nepal that they will have been disappointed with their final total of 290-8 - their third highest in ODI cricket - after being 246-2 with seven overs to go with two set batters at the crease.
Malla was dismissed in the 45th over for 41, but no other Nepalio batter was able to get a significant score as Richard Ngarava took four of the last six wickets to fall to finish with ODI best figures of 4-43.
The home team lost the wonderfully named Joylord Gumbie - making his ODI debut - after eight overs of their reply, and after the 10 over powerplay the match was evenly poised with Zimbabwe on 52-1 compared with Nepal's 45-0 at the same stage.
Craig Ervine and Wessly Madhevere added 82 for the second wicket before the latter was out for 32, but it was the experienced pair of Ervine and Sean Williams that really took the game away from the visitors.
Ervine and Williams put on an unbroken 164 for the third wicket to secure an eight wicket win, with both scoring centuries. Ervine was the top scorer with 121 but Williams was the star, scoring 102 from 70 balls for Zimbabwe's fastest ever ODI century.
The Nepali bowling attack lacked penetration, and Sompal Kami's withdrawal with what appeared to be an injury to the webbing between the thumb and index finger of his bowling hand halfway through his sixth over didn't help. Sandeep Lamichhane ended a record run of 33 consecutive ODIs with a wicket by going wicketless for 77 runs in his ten overs.
Both teams will next be in action on Tuesday when Zimbabwe play a Netherlands side weakened by the unavailability of most of their county cricketers, and Nepal come up against USA in what may be a fiery encounter given the recent history between these two teams.