WORLD CUP, GROUP D, JAMAICA
West Indies 204-4 beat Zimbabwe 202-5 by six wickets
Batting at number five, Lara helped guide his side to victory
Captain Brian Lara guided West Indies into the Super 8 phase with 44 not out as they beat Zimbabwe by six wickets.
Chris Gayle (40) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (21) had given the hosts a good start with an opening stand of 73 before they both edged catches to slip.
Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Samuels also fell, but Lara and Dwayne Bravo saw them home with 13 balls to spare.
Sean Williams (70 not out) and Brendan Taylor (50) had earlier helped Zimbabwe make 202-5 after losing early wickets.
The hosts went into the game knowing that victory would see them become the second team after Australia to book their place in the second phase.
As Lara won the toss and put Zimbabwe in, his fast bowlers took an early stranglehold on the match after both sides, wearing black armbands, had observed a minute's silence for the late Bob Woolmer.
Pacemen Jerome Taylor and Daren Powell removed the Zimbabwe top three cheaply with Friday Kasteni, one of three changes to the side, yorked by Taylor off the first ball of the second over.
His partner Vusi Sibanda then foolishly shouldered arms and was clean bowled by Powell, leaving Zimbabwe reeling at 2-2.
Although Lara kept the pressure on and took both powerplays immediately, Powell and Taylor allowed their line to stray and sent down a number of wides to push the score along.
But just as it looked as if Zimbabwe were building a recovery, Justice Chibhabha was bowled by Taylor, and soon Stuart Matsikenyeri spooned a catch to Powell at mid-on from the bowling of Dwayne Smith to leave them 59-4.
It was left to wicket-keeper Brendan Taylor to stem the tide for the African side, and he was supported well by Williams as they put on 83 in 23 overs before a mix-up saw Taylor stranded in mid-pitch and run out.
Then Williams, who made his fourth ODI half-century, and Elton Chigumbura accelerated during the final overs and give the total a respectability which could not have been anticipated after those early wickets.
A minute's silence was observed for the late Bob Woolmer
Powell also had time to judge, juggle and ultimately drop a skier in the deep from Williams in the 47th over.
With the required run-rate just 4.06 per over, Gayle and Chanderpaul made a steady start.
As the pair eventually began to cut loose, Gayle brought up the fifty stand with an enormous straight six off Tawanda Mupariwa - and cleared the ropes twice more off the next two deliveries.
Zimbabwe captain Prosper Utseya rotated his bowlers in an attempt to stem the tide, and bowled some tidy off-spin himself, conceding just 26 runs in his 10 overs.
The breakthrough came when Chanderpaul edged Chigumbura to slip where Sibanda took a low catch - and the opener walked without waiting for the umpire's verdict.
The very next over, wicket-keeper Taylor got a hand to Gayle's edge, but Sibanda was alert enough to catch the rebound - and with both openers gone, the Windies were suddenly 73-2 with two new batsmen in.
Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Samuels brought the hundred up before Sarwan gave a return catch to seamer Anthony Ireland - which brought captain Lara to the crease.
Lara and Samuels eased the total along until Samuels slashed Tawanda Mupariwa to Chibhabha at point for 28, leaving them 129-4 with 17 overs remaining.
Zimbabwe were potentially one or two wickets away from having a great chance of an upset against the hosts.
But Lara, who hit just one boundary during his first 34 runs, made sure his side kept up with the run rate as he passed 1,000 World Cup runs and he enjoyed an unbroken stand of 75 with Bravo.
All-rounder Bravo also played his part, pulling Mpofu over the boundary for six as he made an unbeaten 37 - although he was dropped at fine leg on 32 by substitute fielder Gary Brent, on for the injured Ireland, off Christopher Mpofu.
Lara finished it off in style, swatting Chigumbura for a four and then a six to finish on 44 not out and win the match.