Nepal’s in-form batsman-wicketkeeper Asaf Sheikh has confidently predicted that his team can “win most of their matches” and secure a maiden place at the World Cup. Nepal are one of 10 teams taking part in a three-week-long qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe, with only two nations booking places at the global showpiece event in India in October and November.
Nepal won 11 of their last 12 matches to reach the qualifier and face a stern test on Sunday when they open their campaign against hosts Zimbabwe in Harare. In warm-up matches last week, they went down to a penultimate ball defeat to the UAE and then achieved a two-wicket victory over Oman. Sheikh top-scored with 76 runs in the defeat to the UAE.
Zimbabwe, who failed to qualify for the 2019 World Cup, won both of their warm-up games against Oman and Scotland. Sikandar Raza registered an unbeaten 110 not out from 67 balls before taking three for 43. Raza top-scored again versus Scotland, with the hosts needing just 24.5 overs to eclipse the 163 posted by their opponents.
Two-time champions West Indies also get their Group A campaign underway on Sunday against the United States looking to maintain their ever-present record at World Cups. The United States have never played at a World Cup and are in the qualifier for the first time since 2005.
“In this team, I am the person to anchor the batting so I will take pride in doing that and getting my team to the World Cup,” said Aaron Jones of the United States. “It would be great to grow the sport in our country and play in World Cups. Not only for ourselves – when we move on, we want to leave something behind for the youngsters to look up to. It is very important for us to have a legacy.”
West Indies all-rounder Keemo Paul added “I wouldn’t say not qualifying would be a failure, but I wouldn’t look down that road because I think we’ll definitely qualify.” The West Indies are looking to maintain their ever-present record at World Cups, having won 3-0 against the UAE earlier this month, followed by victories in Harare against Scotland and a fourth win in a month against the UAE in warm-ups.