An upbeat West Indies coach Stuart Law was full of praise for both teams after a hard-fought battle with Zimbabwe at the Harare Sports Club. Law singled out Brendan Taylor for particular praise, while also calling Jason Holder's 4 for 35 "outstanding", bigging up his middle order, and even finding time to tip his hat to the ground staff for producing a good pitch.
"First of all, hats off to Andy Atkinson and his staff to get a pitch up that made cricket a great spectacle today," Law said. "The boys certainly enjoyed playing on a surface that gave something to everybody. It had pace and bounce, it had a bit of spin, and it was very good to bat on."
West Indies took early wickets after Zimbabwe chose to bat, but Taylor's 138 put the visitors under pressure in the field and at one stage it seemed Zimbabwe would pass 300. "That's one of the best one-day hundreds I've seen," Law said of Taylor's knock. "Total control, very calm. He put the bad ball away and he put the good ball away for ones and twos. Zimbabwe had great fight, as we expected. We had to play well to beat them."
Zimbabwe were well placed for a final push at 226 for 4 after 40 overs, but Holder then removed Sikandar Raza and Solomon Mire, returning to bat at the death after retiring injured earlier in the day, with pinpoint yorkers. With Taylor falling to Kemar Roach, Zimbabwe managed just 63 runs from the last ten overs, losing six wickets.
"Jason Holder, for the whole game, was outstanding," Law said . "To only go for 35 runs in his 10, with a total of 290, is outstanding. And also picking up four wickets. At one stage, with Brendan Taylor there, Zimbabwe looked like getting 320, 330, 340. Our fielding was very good as well. The energy we showed was outstanding."
West Indies lost Chris Gayle early in their chase, but Shai Hope and Evin Lewis ensured no further wobbles with a 72-run stand. When Lewis fell for 64, Hope was joined by Marlon Samuels, and they put West Indies well on top with a 135-run partnership. Zimbabwe surged once more in the closing moments of the match, taking four wickets in 12 deliveries, but Rovman Powell ended their fightback with a vital six in the second last over.
"Our plan was not to lose too many wickets up front, and to have wickets at the back end so we could attack," Law said. "Marlon Samuels and Shai Hope played a brilliant partnership. It would have been nice if one of them had been there at the end to cap off a great day. We lost a few wickets towards the back end, which was a bit of kamikaze cricket at times. If it comes off it looks great. We were lucky to have two cool heads at the end there, Rovman Powell and Ashley Nurse, to see us over the line."
West Indies' victory means they still have a strong chance of making Sunday's final. A win over Scotland on Wednesday would guarantee their spot, but Law also suggested that Associate nations such as Scotland are no longer the pushovers they may once have been.
"We can't take anyone lightly in this competition, I think everyone sees that. People sitting on the outside expecting teams to just roll over and die, those days are gone. If you take Marlon and Chris Gayle out of our team, we're probably one of the most inexperienced sides here, in terms of number of games. Our guys are young and they're still learning. We've got a little bit to work on."