Chevrons face tough World Cup qualifiers

Zim cricket coach Dave Houghton

The Zimbabwe cricket team will face a daunting task to book a ticket to the World Cup in India later this year when they host the seemingly tough qualifiers after the USA and UAE became the eighth and ninth teams to confirm participation at the event.

The ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2023 which will decide the final two participants for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 in India later in the year, is scheduled for June 18 to July 9 in Harare and Bulawayo.

USA and UAE confirmed their involvement in the event on Tuesday after they made it to the final of the World Cup Qualifier Play-off which concluded in Namibia yesterday.

Teams that had already made the ICC World Cup Qualifier list include West Indies, Sri Lanka, Netherlands, Zimbabwe, Scotland, Nepal and Oman.

Ireland still have a chance to grab the final automatic qualification ticket if they whitewash Bangladesh in a final three-match series of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup Super League set for next month.

If Ireland gains automatic qualification South Africa will have to come to Zimbabwe for the qualifiers to entertain any hopes of making it to India for the global showpiece.

Zimbabwe finished 12th out of 13 teams in the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup Super League with 55 points from 24 matches with Netherlands anchoring the log table with just 35 points.

Two teams that have traditionally taken part in the qualifiers Bangladesh and Afghanistan managed to claim automatic qualification after posting some impressive results in the Super League.

Zimbabwe, who are looking to make their first ICC World Cup appearance since 2015 in Australia, struggled in the Super League slumping to white wash defeats at home Bangladesh and Afghanistan in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Hosts India inflicted another home whitewash on Zimbabwe in December last year.

The Chevrons won one match against rivals Ireland in Belfast back in September 2021 and also losing once while the other match failed to produce a result after being interrupted by rain and the two teams ended up sharing the points.

But the team did manage to produce some shock results claiming famous wins against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia away from home.

It is interesting that four out of Zimbabwe’s six wins as well as no result were achieved while the team was playing away from home and two others were at home to Netherlands last month.

Zimbabwe have generally struggled in the ODI format when playing at home especially against full member sides and it will be interesting to see how the team fare in the World Cup.

This ICC World Cup qualifier will bring with it bad memories from 2018 when Zimbabwe hosted the competition and missed out on qualification following a heart-breaking three-run defeat to minnows UAE in their final qualifying match.

UAE returns again this year, this time a much stronger side than they were five years ago.

While Zimbabwe struggled under former coach Lalchand Rajput, there has been marked signs of improvement under Dave Houghton who took over the reins last winter and managed to qualify the team for the men’s T20 World Cup as well as beat Australia in the Super League and draw an ODI home series against Ireland before beating Netherlands recently.  

Since his arrival Houghton has managed to widen the net for national team selection, luring former England International Gary Ballance and giving opportunities to other players such Clive Madande and Tony Munyonga.

Houghton also seemingly turned around the fortunes for players like Sikandar Raza, Ryan Burl, Innocent Kaia, Wellington Masakadza and Brad Evans, among others who have starred for the team during his tenure.

To qualify for the World Cup Zimbabwe will have to beat either West Indies or Sri Lanka to grab one of the two slots remaining and will not need to underestimate any team in the competition.

Ten teams that make the World Cup Qualifiers will be drawn into two groups containing five teams each and teams who will be in top three positions in the groups will reach the Super Six stage.

In the Super Six, teams will play against each other and teams occupying the top two positions qualifying for the global showpiece.

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