BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ZIMBABWE cricket team‘s all-rounders Sikandar Raza and Sean Williams have made big strides on the latest MRF Tyres ICC Men’s Twenty International (T20I) Player Rankings following their heroics during their successful campaign in the ICC T20 World Cup qualifiers held in Bulawayo last week.
The experienced pair proved why they remain integral members of the national cricket side after starring with both bat and ball as Zimbabwe qualified for the global tournament in style by winning the Qualifier B tournament on home soil.
Williams rose eight spots to be placed 12th overall on the T20I all-rounders rankings, which are topped by Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan.
Raza also made big strides on the rankings after jumping five places to 19th while Ryan Burl is the third Zimbabwean player inside the top 20 as he occupies 17th position.
Thirty-five year-old Williams hardly looked like a player who was making a return to international cricket for the first time in over six months after finishing as the third highest run scorer in the qualifying competition.
The Bulawayo-born left hander with 197 runs in five matches at an impressive average of 39.4 and strike rate of 135.86 also claimed three wickets with his left arm spin at an impressive economy rate of 4.41.
Raza was also equally impressive in Bulawayo which ultimately earned him the player of the tournament honours at the qualifier.
The 36-year-old was the second highest run getter in the qualifying competition behind American Steven Taylor who plundered 233 runs in five matches.
Raza finished just five runs short of Taylor’s tally after scoring 228 runs with an average and strike rate of 57 and 176.74 respectively.
The Zimbabwean all-rounder was also one of Zimbabwe’s leading bowlers, claiming five wickets.
Four of the wickets came in the final against Netherlands as Raza capped off a memorable tournament by finishing with remarkable bowling figures of four wickets for eight runs in four overs.
While the duo of Williams and Raza were impressive during the ICC T20 World Cup qualifiers, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the strong overall performance of the team led by skipper Craig Ervine.
Ervine and fellow opening batter Regis Chakabva consistently gave Zimbabwe solid starts during the tournament, with Wessley Madhevere also putting on a good show, especially in the semifinal win against Papua New Guinea.
A number of players, spearheaded by quick Blessing Muzarabani, contributed in a strong bowling effort as well. Meanwhile, after successfully securing their place at the T20 World Cup to be played in Australia in October, the Zimbabwe side will regroup tomorrow to prepare for a busy schedule of international cricket.
The Dave Houghton-coached side takes on Bangladesh for three T20Is and as many ODIs from July 30 to August 10 at Harare Sports Club.
After the visit by Bangladesh, Zimbabwe will also play India in an important three-match ODI series with matches scheduled for August 18, 20 and August 22, also at Harare Sports Club.The ODI series, which is part of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League, is expected to generate significant revenue for the local cricket governing body. The last time India toured Zimbabwe was in June-July 2016, back when MS Dhoni was still the captain of the side The Zimbabwe team is expected to conclude its busy two-month schedule by touring Australia for another Super League series consisting of three ODIs scheduled for August 28 and 31 and September 3 in Townsville.
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