HARARE – Marlon Samuels countered Brendan Taylor’s spectacular hundred with an audacious half-century as West Indies completed their fifth highest run chase in One-Day Internationals, to beat Zimbabwe by four wickets and haul themselves back into contention for a spot in next year’s World Cup in England.
Facing a must-win scenario at Harare Sports Club, West Indies overhauled the hosts’ impressive 289 with an over to spare, with the right-handed Samuels unfurling a Man of The Match top score of 86.
He got support from Shai Hope, who weighed in with 76 while opener Evin Lewis struck 64, as West Indies pulled off the highest run chase of the ICC World Cup qualifiers.
Impressive 21-year-old fast bowler Blessing Muzarabani (2-36) and leg-spinner Graeme Cremer (2-63) shared four wickets apiece but were unable to prevent West Indies clinching the crucial win.
Earlier, Taylor stroked a magnificent 138 – his 10th ODI hundred – while opener Solomon Mire got 45 and Sean Williams 34, to help give the innings momentum on a good pitch after they had opted to bat first.
Captain and seamer Jason Holder was outstanding with four for 35 from 10 overs while new-ball partner Kemar Roach claimed three for 55 and rookie pacer Keemo Paul, two for 55.
With the victory, West Indies climbed from third to the top of the standings with six points with one match remaining against Scotland.
Zimbabwe, meanwhile, slipped to second place – one point behind – with one match left against United Arab Emirates on Thursday, while Scotland lie third also on five points.
West Indies made early inroads when they reduced Zimbabwe to 28 for two in the sixth over, with Holder having left-hander Cephas Zhuwao caught at short fine leg by Paul without scoring and then sending back Hamilton Masakadza for seven to a catch at the wicket.
However, Taylor came to his side’s aid by anchoring three successive half-century stands.
First, he put on 51 for the third wicket with Craig Ervine (14) before adding 76 with Williams and a further 79 with Sikandar Raza (22).
All told, the 32-year-old Taylor struck 20 fours and two sixes in a 124-ball knock before perishing in the 44th over, skying a heave at Roach to cover where Ashley Nurse held a difficult catch.
Needing to win to stay in the qualifiers, West Indies got a solid start as Lewis and veteran Chris Gayle (17) posted 38 off 35 balls for the first wicket.
The left-handed Gayle looked ominous in belting two sixes – back-to-back straight hits off off-spinner Sikandar Raza in the fourth over – but fell to a catch by Kyle Jarvis running in from third man after miscuing a slash at Muzarabani in the sixth over.
Any hopes Zimbabwe harboured of making further inroads were dashed as Lewis, Hope and Samuels combined to put the contest firmly in the Windies favour.
Lewis struck seven fours and a six off 75 balls, adding 72 for the second wicket with Hope, before driving a return catch to Raza in the 22nd over.
Hope and Samuels then posted a fabulous 135 for the third wicket to put the result seemingly beyond doubt.
Samuels was at his absolute best, stamping his authority on the innings with six fours and four sixes off 80 balls. (CMC)