By Robson Sharuko
HARARE, HOSTS Zimbabwe’s warm-up match against Ireland was abandoned at Queens Sports Club today without a ball being bowled as mother nature played her hand to disrupt the preparations for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2018 Qualifiers in Bulawayo and Harare.
Rains have been falling throughout the country in recent weeks and the covers remain at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo before the umpires decided to abandon the high-profile warm-up match between two teams with a realistic chance of challenging for the two tickets to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England and Wales.
With forecasts of wet conditions persisting throughout the country and into the first week of the tournament, which is being staged in Harare, Bulawayo and Kwekwe, there are fears a number of key matches might be decided by the weather.
However, the experts expect the second week of the tournament to be quite sunny throughout the country but a number of big matches, including the Zimbabwe versus Afghanistan showdown, would have been played by then.
At least, there was action in Harare and Kwekwe today but, in the capital, the warm-up matches featuring the West Indies against Afghanistan and Hong Kong and the Netherlands were, at some stages, affected by the weather.
Windies, the two-time world champions, won the toss and chose to field against Afghanistan in conditions, which looked like the English summer with a lot of overhead clouds, which suited the team that was bowling first.
The Asians, whose stock has risen rapidly in recent years and favoured by some to even win one of the tickets to the World Cup next year, struggled under the barrage of the Windies pace attack and lost their swashbuckling opener Mohammad Shahzad for a duck.
The 29-year-old wicket-keeper is returning to the big stage after serving a 12-month ban for inadvertently ingesting a prohibited substance in January last year after having undergone an out-of-competition test in Dubai.
His ample was found to contain clenbuterol, classified as a non-specified substance under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Prohibited List, and he only returned to action for the ODI series against Zimbabwe in the United Arab Emirates.
The Asians limped to 46-6 and were at 82/8, with Windies skipper Jason Holder (two wickets) leading a battery of his pacemen who tore through the Afghanistan innings, when rain stopped play in Harare after 25.4 overs had been bowled.
The match between Hong Kong and the Netherlands was also disrupted by rain but not before the Asians had been bowled out for 157 in their innings.
However, everything appeared to be going according to plan in Kwekwe where the United Arab Emirates were battling Nepal in another warm-up match.