BULAWAYO – Host Zimbabwe and Netherlands have qualified for the T20 World Cup in Australia in October after both won the semi-final matches of a qualification tournament, against Papua New Guinea and the United States, respectively.

The two matches on Friday were played concurrently in the southern African country’s second largest city, with the Zimbabweans surviving a huge scare to beat the Pacific islanders by 27 runs.

Zimbabwe had totaled what looked like a comfortable target of 199-5 at the Queens Sports Club, but they labored to contain the attacking Papua New Guinea batters, especially man-of-the-match Tony Ura.

The 27-year-old right-hander played an aggressive 35-ball innings for his 65 runs, cracking four boundaries and five sixes.

Danger-man Ura’s dismissal by the spin of Sean Williams, cleaned bowled, marked the turning point of the game as Zimbabwe eventually managed to restrict Papua New Guinea to 172-8.

Seamer Richard Ngarava bowled the last over, with Papua New Guinea requiring 31 runs to win off it. Quick Blessing Muzarabani was the pick of Zimbabwe’s bowlers with 2-24.

Earlier on, Wessly Madhevere top-scored for Zimbabwe, with 42 runs, as all of Zimbabwe’s batters reached double figures.

Openers Regis Chakabva (30) and captain Craig Ervine (38) laid the foundation as Zimbabwe’s top-order looked comfortable at the crease and rotated the strike well.

“It’s exciting to have qualified for the World Cup, but obviously we can’t celebrated as yet as we have got a final to play on Sunday, but I’m sure on Sunday evening the celebrations will begin,” said Williams.

Meanwhile, across town at the Bulawayo Athletic Club, the United States’ fairytale run in the tournament ended following a seven wicket defeat to the Netherlands.

The US had been aiming to reach the first cricket World Cup in the nation’s history, something that looked like a real possibility after easy wins over Jersey and Singapore in their first two pool matches.

Defeat to Zimbabwe on Thursday in the last group match however meant they had to face the tough opposition of the Dutch in the semi-finals, and the Americans had all to do on Friday after being bowled out for 138 runs in the final over.

Pacers, man-of-the-match Bas de Leede and Paul Meekeren, took two wickets apiece for the Netherlands.

The European side won with six balls to spare, as the outstanding de Leede finished undefeated just nine runs short of a century. He faced 67 balls, hitting nine fours and three sixes.

Zimbabwe and the Netherlands, the two teams that have qualified, will not play against each other in the final on Sunday in a match that will decide the overall winner of the T20 World Cup Qualifier B tournament.


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