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Andre Fletcher and Andre Russell celebrate West Indies' win AFP

Windies arrive in Zimbabwe to kickstart qualification bid

(CMC) – West Indies received a rousing welcome at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on Sunday evening as they became the first team to arrive for the ICC World Cup Qualifiers starting next month.

A traditional dance group put on a cultural extravaganza at the airport, with dozens of local cricket fans also on hand to greet the two-time former 50-overs World Cup champions.

Members of the Local Organising Committee and government representatives also welcomed the Caribbean side.

“We are really excited to be here. It’s a lovely place,” Windies captain Jason Holder said.

“The last time we came here we had great success and hopefully on this tour we’ll have success again and qualify for the 2019 World Cup.

“We are well supported here . . . the fans here adore cricket, they are big cricket fans, they love us and we love them so we have come here to put on a really good show for them, entertain them and make them happy.”

Another batch of Windies players and officials are expected to touch down on today.

The Caribbean side are one of 10 teams down to do battle in the March 4-25 tournament, as they vie for the remaining two spots at the showpiece in England next year.

West Indies open their campaign on March 6 against United Arab Emirates, who won the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 last week, to book their spot in the qualifiers.

They, along with Ireland, the Netherlands and Papua New Guinea comprise Group A while Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Scotland, Hong Kong and Nepal form Group B.

The top three from each group will advance to the Super Sixes, where they will each play three matches against teams they did not meet in the preliminaries.

The finalists will secure the final two berths at the ICC World Cup from May 30 to July 15 next year.

Queens Sports Club and Bulawayo Athletic Club in Bulawayo, Harare Sports Club and Old Hararians Sports Club in Harare and Kwekwe Sports Club, Kwekwe, will share the 34 matches in the qualifying tournament, with Harare Sports Club staging the final.

West Indies missed out on automatic qualification for the World Cup after finishing outside the top eight in the ICC one-day rankings at the September 30 cut-off date last year.

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