Scotland’s cricketers today face their most important match in years when they line-up against star-studded West Indies in Harare with a place at next year’s World Cup at stake.
It’s a must-win encounter for both sides with the Windies currently leading the Super Six table of the Qualifier on six points, just one ahead of the Scots and hosts Zimbabwe who are expected to win their remaining game against UAE tomorrow.
Until Sunday’s 25-run defeat to Ireland, Kyle Coetzer’s side had gone through the tournament unbeaten with several impressive individual and team performances.
By coach Grant Bradburn’s admission, his team were outplayed by the Irish but there is a quiet belief in the Scottish camp that this team is capable of bouncing back to secure what would be one of the most remarkable victories in their history.
Coetzer said: “We’ve done our prep and the lads are ready to go. It’s a massive occasion and one we are determined to embrace.
“There is nothing to be afraid of and we’re going to go out there and try to express ourselves and play to our strengths.
“We know they have a couple of key men at the top of the order, but our bowlers will go hard, heavy and hostile – we’re not going to just let them play.”
Having emerged from a period in the doldrums, West Indies, traditionally one of the world’s elite sides, will start strong favourites.
Their place at next year’s global showpiece in England would already be assured had it not been for their only defeat to Afghanistan in the opening match of the Super Six.
Since then, though, Jason Holder’s side have impressively chased 289 to beat the hosts and put themselves in pole position for qualification.
Dangermen abound in the Windies line-up, perhaps none more so than the mercurial Chris Gayle who opened the tournament with a 93-ball 123 against UAE.
However, Gayle has been kept quiet since allowing others like opener partner Evin Lewis, the experienced Marlon Samuel and the explosive duo of Shimron Hetmyer and Rovman Powell to score the bulk of the runs.
In the bowling department the Scots will need to be wary of Windies skipper Jason Holder who, at 6ft 8in, offers challenges not often encountered by Scottish batsman.
Holder leads the way with 14 wickets while Kemar Roach offers genuine pace.
However, Scotland have their own strengths, their bowling having been among the most potent of any team in the competition with Sunday’s reverse to Ireland the only time they have failed to bowl a side out.
Safyaan Sharif has been the most successful, matching Holder with 14 wickets, the third best haul among all the bowlers in the tournament.
Yet the batsmen have had their say as well with Calum MacLeod (282) and skipper Coetzer (274) among the top five leading scorers.
Coetzer added: “I’m sure there will be a few nerves before the game but that’s a good thing because if shows the guys want to perform for their country.
“We don’t often get the chance to play against Test nations so what an opportunity this is for us with so much at stake.”