Zimbabwe braces for global cricket jamboree IN FOR A TREAT . . . The Zimbabwe cricket fans are expected to be treated to some competitive and exciting games of cricket during the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2023 which begins in Harare and Bulawayo next week. – Picture: Zimbabwe Cricket

Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter

THE stage is shaping up for the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2023 with former world champions Sri Lanka and Ireland expected to arrive in the country today for the cricket jamboree that begins next week in Harare and Bulawayo.

The Irish, who have former Zimbabwe international PJ Moor in their 15-member squad are expected to touch down shortly before noon while the Sri-Lankans will be arriving late afternoon.

The ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2023 will be played across four venues in Harare and Bulawayo from June 18 to July 9, and will see 10 teams battling it out for the only two spots available for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 to be held in India later in the year.

The United States of America were the first to travel to Zimbabwe on Monday and have been camping in Bulawayo the whole week to acclimatize with the conditions in the Southern African nation.

The rest of the participating teams that include the Netherlands, Scotland, Nepal, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, are expected tomorrow, with the two-time world champions and Qualifier tournament favourites West Indies the last to arrive at 5:10pm

Officials at Zimbabwe Cricket said the host team Zimbabwe, who have been camping in Kwekwe since Monday, will also officially check into their team hotel tomorrow.

ZC also said the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier Trophy will go on a roadshow in Harare this morning.

The association’s chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani told ICC that Zimbabwe are looking to deliver a top-notch event with quality cricket games expected in the next one month.

“We are looking forward to an unforgettable treat of great, entertaining and competitive cricket, something that is guaranteed considering the quality of the teams participating in the tournament.

“Apart from the magic that the game itself is promising, this event presents us as the hosts with an incredible opportunity to showcase not only the passion for cricket in Zimbabwe but also the warmth of our people as well as the breath-taking beauty of our country and its tourist attractions,” said Mukuhlani

The Chevrons are hoping to finish among the two finalists and secure the ticket to the World Cup. The Qualifier promises some exciting competition for the Chevrons who face two-time champions West Indies, the Netherlands, Nepal and the USA in the Group A round robin phase, which precedes the Super Six stage.

Zimbabwe coach Dave Houghton, however, is unfazed by the hurdles. Zimbabwe missed out on the finals at the previous edition held in England and Wales in 2019 after coming short at the most crucial time in a similar Qualifier which they had hosted the previous year.

“We are not even thinking along the lines of if we can get out of our group in the early stages. We are thinking only of winning the tournament and qualifying for the World Cup,” Houghton told The Herald.

“Firstly, no mention of 2018 has happened on my watch. This is a different team and I’m a different coach.

“We have a very good team, and excellent spirit, garnered over the past 12 months’ successes and the work we have all put in. We are very confident and hope we will provide good entertainment for our fans,” said Houghton.

Zimbabwe will warm up for the tournament with games against Oman at Takashinga on Tuesday and then Scotland at Old Hararians on Thursday.

The Chevrons will play Nepal in the opening match of the tournament at Harare Sports Club on June 18, before entertaining the Netherlands at the same venue two days later.

On June 24, Zimbabwe and the West Indies will lock horns at Harare Sports Club in what should be the biggest Group A fixture.

Zimbabwe’s last group fixture will be against the USA at the same venue on June 26.

The West Indies, who were crowned 50-over World Cup champions in 1975 and 1979, are returning to the Qualifier as favourites, having finished runners up to Afghanistan at the previous qualifying event held in Zimbabwe in 2018.

Sri Lanka, who won the World Cup in 1996 and were runners up in 2007 and 2011, are also the other team to look forward to after they failed to gain automatic qualification for the first time in 44 years.

They named their 15-member squad yesterday and will travel today.

They will arrive just hours after the Ireland team has landed. The Irish are also looking to be competitive and leg-spinner Ben White did not mince his words in an interview with the Cricket Ireland website prior to the team’s departure.

“We’re just looking forward to get over there to play some intense cricket. We’ll be playing some of the world’s best teams in Sri Lanka and West Indies – but, hopefully, we can play our best and come away with World Cup qualification and be heading to India in October,” said White.

Ireland played white ball cricket against Zimbabwe earlier in the year and lost the T20 series 1-2 before drawing 1-1 in the ODIs. The World Cup Qualifier, though, is a different competition.

“Last time we were in Zimbabwe it was summer-time, so we expect conditions to be different – maybe not as sunny, but dry.

“Our main aim is to qualify for a World Cup, that would be fantastic. It’s definitely going to be a competitive tournament.”

The 10 teams taking part in the tournament are split into two groups, with Sri Lanka, Ireland, Scotland, Oman and the United Arab Emirates making up Group B.

The top three from each group will progress to the Super Six stage where each team will play three matches against the sides they did not meet in the group stage.

All points won in the groups will be carried over to the Super Six stage, apart from those gained against the bottom two from each group.

The two finalists will progress to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 to be held in India later in the year.

For the first time in this tournament, the Decision Review System (DRS) will be utilized for all matches from the Super Six stage onward, adding an additional layer of fairness and accuracy to the proceedings.

ZC have since announced that match tickets are now on sale to the public. Fans can purchase their tickets to selected matches online at cricketworldcup.com. Tickets will also be sold at the venue gates on match-days, subject to availability.

Charges have been pegged between US$2 and US$10 to enjoy in person the four group matches involving Zimbabwe as well as all the Super Six fixtures and the final.

Spectators will be able to watch for free all the other group matches not involving the hosts.  For the group matches involving Zimbabwe as well as all the Super Six fixtures and the final at Harare Sports Club, tickets are going for US$2 (rest of ground), US$5 (grass embankment and TICSA grandstand) and US$10 (Centurion).

At Queens Sports Club, fans will pay US$2 (rest of ground) and US$5 (grandstand) to watch all the Super Six matches.

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