Sports
Wishart sets up rain-affected Zim win

HARARE, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Opener Craig Wishart hit a commanding 172 not out to set up Zimbabwe’s 86-run victory over Namibia in a rain-curtailed World Cup Group A match on Monday.

Although the match started on time after months of controversy over the six World Cup games scheduled to take place in strife-torn Zimbabwe, rain halted play for the second time at 1410 GMT.

With no chance of a resumption, the game was abandoned but, since the side batting second had faced a minimum of 25 overs, Zimbnwe were able to celebrate victory.

"It was a bit tight at one stage but, fortunately, we just got them (the minimum 25 overs) in," said Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak. "We wanted to get off to a good start in this tournament and we got it today.

"We’ve still got a bit of work to do with our bowling but, overall, it’s looking good at the moment," he added.

Facing a revised victory target of 325 in 46 overs, Namibia slipped from a flying start to 104 for five when rain intervened after 25.1 overs, well behind on the Duckworth/Lewis scoring method for interrupted matches.

Former captain Danie Keulder was Namibia’s top scorer, striking three fours in his 27 before he was brilliantly caught off a full-blooded cover drive by a leaping Dion Ebrahim.

"It was a great experience for all of us to play in our first World Cup," said Namibia captain Deon Kotze. "It wasn’t a large crowd but it was exciting for us.

"But our all-round bowling performance today was nowhere near as good as we can be. And I think we let ourselves down in the field as well."

The tournament minnows, playing in their first World Cup, won the toss but could do little to stem the flow of runs as Zimbabwe piled up an imposing 340 for two in their 50 overs.

Opener Wishart narrowly missed out on the highest individual World Cup score as Zimbabwe cashed in on a good batting pitch and an inexperienced Namibia attack, Grant Flower finishing unbeaten on 78.

Wishart’s 172 was the highest total by a Zimbabwe batsman in one-day internationals but fell short of Gary Kirsten’s 188 not out for South Africa against the United Arab Emirates in the 1996 World Cup.

Pakistan’s Saeed Anwar holds the world record one-day score of 194.

"The pitch was an absolute beauty," said Wishart. "I just wanted to play my natural game today and that was what the coach wanted too.

"My job is to try and bat through (the innings) and that’s my plan for the rest of the tournament."

OPENING STAND

Wishart, who struck three sixes and 18 fours in 149 balls, shared an opening stand of 107 with Mark Vermeulen, who made 39 before falling to the left-arm spin of Lennie Louw.

The 43-year-old Louw, the oldest player in the tournament, produced a juggling catch off his own bowling to claim Namibia’s first ever World Cup wicket.

Andy Flower, who issued a hard-hitting statement with team mate Henry Olonga before the start of the match criticising Zimbabwe’s record on human rights and democracy, scored 39 before being removed by Jan-Berry Burger’s occasional leg-spin.

Flower, arguably Zimbabwe’s greatest player and among the top batsmen in the world, had walked on to the field wearing a black arm band in what is expected to be his last major international event for his country.

But Wishart and Grant Flower lifted Zimbabwe past 300 with an unbroken third-wicket stand of 166 in front of a small crowd at Harare Sports Club.

The slightly-built Bjorn Kotze, nicknamed ‘Bones’, was hammered for 75 runs in his 10 overs while fellow medium pace seamer Louis Burger went for 70 from 10.

Despite a promising start to their reply, with electrician Stefan Swanepoel making 23 and Louis Burger 26, the Namibian amateurs were always going to struggle chasing the 17th highest team total in one-day history.


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