Sikandar Raza struck 87 off 40 balls as hosts Zimbabwe defeated Singapore by 111 runs on Monday to make a great start in their bid to qualify for the T20 World Cup in Australia.
Put in to bat after losing the toss, Zimbabwe posted 236-5 in 20 overs with Raza, Sean Williams (53) and captain Craig Ervine (34) the leading run-makers at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo.
Singapore never looked like matching the run rate of the home team and managed just 125-7 with unbeaten Janak Prakash (32) top-scoring and Surendran Chandramohan (21) the only other contributor of note.
Tendai Chatara (3-14) and Blessing Muzarabani (2-21) were the most successful bowlers for Zimbabwe, who are seeking a sixth T20 World Cup tournament appearance.
New Zimbabwe coach and former star batsman Dave Houghton had called for exciting, positive cricket from a team that last month suffered 3-0 series losses to visiting Afghanistan in both white-ball formats.
Batting at No 5, Pakistan-born right-hander Raza heeded the rallying cry with a Man of the Match performance that included five sixes and eight fours.
“This was a great start. The coach has emphasised the need to not only start the tournament well but finish it equally well. Our goal is to qualify for Australia,” said Raza.
“We want the other seven teams to know that we are determined to secure one of the two qualifying places on offer and I think we did that really well.
“The win over Singapore is history now. The focus of my teammates and I has already shifted to the match against Jersey tomorrow.”
A United States side including former Proteas fast bowler Rusty Theron defeated Jersey by eight wickets in the other Group A clash.
Jersey, one of four contenders in Bulawayo hoping to reach the T20 World Cup for the first time, made 154-5 off 20 overs.
Batting at No 3, Asa Tribe struck an unbeaten 73, including six sixes, for Jersey, a tiny London-ruled island between England and France.
The USA surpassed that total with 11 balls to spare and opener Steven Taylor (101*) starred. He faced 55 balls and fired five sixes and 12 fours.
If Zimbabwe beat Jersey and the USA defeat Singapore on Tuesday both will secure semi-finals places, leaving the hosts and the Americans to fight for first place in the group on Thursday.
Four-time qualifiers the Netherlands lived up to their billing as Group B favourites with a 52-run victory over Papua New Guinea.
The Dutch won the toss and posted 163-7 with Stephan Myburgh (39) top-scoring while Semo Kamea and Charles Amini took two wickets each for the Pacific Islanders.
Papua New Guinea were all out for 111 in 19.4 overs having never matched the Netherlands run rate. Sese Bau (35) was the only batsman to fire while Logan van Beek (3-17) was the pick of the Dutch bowlers.
Uganda surprised Hong Kong in the same group, winning by two wickets in a low-scoring affair. Replying to 87-9, the Africans reached 88-8 off the third ball of the final over.
Wins for the Netherlands over Hong Kong and Uganda against Papua New Guinea on Tuesday will seal semi-finals places.
The Bulawayo finalists will join 14 other nations at the T20 World Cup in Australia from 16 October.
© Agence France-Presse