Ultimately there were no surprises in the opening round of Group B fixtures. Favourites Zimbabwe and Afghanistan won tight affairs by the same 14 run margin, setting up the intriguing prospect of a winner-take-all clash on Saturday.
Vusi Sibanda’s half-century was ultimately the difference between the Zimbabweans and Hong Kong in the opening fixture, while Mohammad Shahzad hit a match winning 61 for Afghanistan. Tomorrow sees the fixtures reversed, with Zimbabwe taking on the Scots before Hong Kong and Afghanistan face off in the afternoon fixture. Lets look at what to expect:
Zimbabwe v Scotland
A loss for the Scots would mean certain elimination, so they’ll be highly motivated to produce a better performance than they mustered on Tuesday. They struggled with the ball in that game, with opening bowlers Josh Davey and Mark Watts particularly expensive. This could be an issue given the form of Zimbabwe’s top order batters.
Vusi Sibanda: Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza got Zimbabwe off to a flyer against Hong Kong and will relish facing the Scottish opening bowling pair and the opener carried on – hitting 59 off 46 balls. If they fell cheaply, a middle order that struggled badly last time out could be exposed.
Kyle Coetzer: Coetzer was our pick on Day One and he didn’t disappoint – hitting a quick fire 40 off just 27 balls. Ultimately their bowlers gave them too much to do but the innings re-established the opening batsman as their most important player.
Afghanistan v Hong Kong
Afghanistan justified their hype with a hard fought victory in their opening match, and will fully expect to add another against tomorrow’s opponents, Hong Kong. Despite an excellent bowling performance, Charlie Burke’s side couldn’t keep up with the run rate but they can feel comfortable knowing they belong at this level.
Mohammad Shazad: Afghanistan’s wicket-keeper clubbed the ball to the fence early and often, helping set the platform for his side to reach a formidable total. In total he hit five fours and three sixes in just 39 balls and also added the crucial stumping of Richie Berrington.
Tanwir Afzal: Afzal was Hong Kong’s top performer with both bat and ball and was largely the reason they stayed in the game. He bowled superbly to take 2/19 from his four overs and then followed it up with an unbeaten 31 from 17 balls. Maybe he should be given more time to bat.