HARARE, Zimbabwe, CMC – Marlon Samuels countered Brendan Taylor’s spectacular 10th One-Day International 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 the stylish 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) both picked up two wickets 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 remaining 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 Keemo 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 to put the innings back in good shape.
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.
Lewis struck seven fours and a six off 75 balls, adding 72 for the second wicket with Hope, before pushing a return catch to Sikandar Raza in the 22nd over.
Hope found an ally in Samuels and together they 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 in 80 balls at the crease, while Hope faced 97 deliveries and counted five fours and a six.
With the required run rate having climbed to nearly eight an over, Samuels released the pressure by slamming Sikandar Raza for two successive straight sixes in the 36th over which cost 18 runs, before raising his 29th ODI half-century in the following over off 54 balls.
He then ripped into Cremer in the 39th with a pair of straight sixes and a similar boundary as the over leaked 19 runs.
Against the run of play, he edged Muzarabani behind in the 44th over, triggering a slide which saw the Windies dramatically lose four wickets for 20 runs in the space of just 12 balls
Hope fell to a low catch at deep mid-wicket by Sikandar Raza in the 45th over off left-arm spinner Williams and in a moment of madness in the 46th over from Cremer, Holder (6) picked out long off while Shimron Hetmyer (13) was stumped missing a wild heave, to leave the Windies tottering on 265 for six .
However, Rovman Powell (15 not out) and Nurse (8 not out) spared the Windies blushes in an unbroken 25-run, seventh wicket stand which saw their side over the line.