Saltires throw away great chance

SCOTLAND’S level of Totesport League frustration hit new depths last night when they snatched defeat from the gaping jaws of victory against promotion-chasing Worcestershire.

In the wake of a stunning bowling display by Yasir Arafat, the Saltires needed just 132 to secure their second triumph of the campaign.

At 79 for two with plenty of overs in hand, they appeared to be cruising to glory at New Road. However, three wickets fell in quick succession as they were struck by a major dose of the jitters to lose in agonising fashion by just a single run.

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Arafat had built what should have been a solid platform by claiming four for 22, the home batsmen - preparing for Saturday’s C&G Cup Final against Gloucestershire at Lord’s - struggling throughout on a tricky track.

But the Scots surrendered the initiative and the misery was complete when last man Paul Hoffmann spooned a catch to Ben Smith at square leg.

Gregor Maiden and Fraser Watts had perished before the reply had reached double figures, leaving the stage clear for Ryan Watson and Dougie Lockhart to steady the ship with an enterprising stand of 70.

The rot set in after the departure of Watson for 44, the last seven men tumbling for 51.

Arafat’s glee turned to gloom when, with only eight required, he refused to respond to Asim Butt’s call for a single. The pair found themselves sharing the same crease and the latter was fatally stranded.

And with Hoffmann, a true No11, in the middle, the odds were then stacked against the visitors.

Arafat began his spree by prompting international one-day specialist Vikram Solanki into chopping the ball onto his stumps for 35 to make it 58 for three and the Scots kept up the pressure when Smith snapped up Steve Peters off Arafat, then Watson struck to get rid of South African dangerman Andrew Hall.

Gareth Batty was next to depart, lbw to Wright to leave Worcestershire reeling on 96 for seven.

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It looked as though any prospect of a recovery had been wrecked as Arafat defeated Steve Rhodes and Nadeem Malik with pinpoint yorkers, while Dave Wigley was run out by an equally accurate Butt return.

Only Smith was able to provide significant resistance with an unbeaten 50 but his effort was to prove as crucial as his last-gasp catch.