Scotland fall short of clean sweeping Zimbabwe

Chris Sole celebrates one of his three early wickets yesterday but Zimbabwe still met their target. Photograph: Donald MacLeod
Chris Sole celebrates one of his three early wickets yesterday but Zimbabwe still met their target. Photograph: Donald MacLeod
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Securing a maiden one-day international victory over a Test nation means this remains a landmark week for Scotland’s cricketers but how much more satisfying still would a first-ever series win against the old order have been

Zimbabwe, and a 2-0 whitewash, appeared there for the taking once more at The Grange yesterday but instead the hosts squandered an alluring position as the tourists salvaged something from their trip to Edinburgh with a six-wicket triumph.

It all had a familiar air of late, the Scots maintaining a recent maddening inability to compile two fulsome performances in succession. After the heroics of two days earlier, the momentum initially continued with half-centuries from Kyle Coetzer and Calum MacLeod but then it stalled and spluttered out.

“Getting over that line has clearly been a hurdle but we don’t want to go into games timid,” Coetzer said. “You don’t want to play OK so it looks all right. You go into games to win. At stages here, we put Zimbabwe under pressure. In the end we weren’t able to put the total on the board but we want to back our own game.”

With their foes all out for 169 in 42 overs, the Zimbabweans were able to adopt a low-risk, high-return approach and, led by an unbeaten 58 from Sikandar Raza, they eased to their target with 78 balls to spare. Rare are the opportunities to face one of the sport’s established order, or indeed anyone of note. “But we’ve played ten days of international cricket and it’s season over,” Coetzer rues. “It’s frustrating.”

Backing his charges to bat first, the early dismissal to Matthew Cross to a skidding ball from Sean Williams appeared an anomaly. Joining his captain, MacLeod fluctuated between foil and sabre as the two former Durham players confidently built a partnership of 71.

There was real rhythm, aided by a clutch of mis-fields from the tourists. Once broken, Scotland splintered. Graeme Cremer, claiming five victims for just 29, tempted Coetzer to swing and miss and he was duly stumped after pinging 61 runs off 60 balls. Then MacLeod was beaten by a switch of pace from Williams when poised on 58.

At 135-3, the platform was built but it tumbled with five wickets falling for just 16 runs. Cremer capitalised on the conditions to make the middle order magically disappear with Michael Leask, unbeaten on 11, the sole remaining combatant to reach double figures.

Steadily Zimbabwe crept towards the target, urged onwards by an occasionally wayward but frequently innocuous attack. Josh Davey despatched Craig Ervine on 30 amid a disciplined 1-16 spell but only Chris Sole, taking 3 for 36, managed to inflict more than superficial damage.

However his improbable close-range miss of the stumps, which allowed Raza to bring up his half-century, summed up the prevailing winds. Surviving, he speedily concluded proceedings with a thunderous four toward deep midwicket, his shot and the contest out of Scotland’s reach.