Thrilling tie as Scotland fall short but Super Six task tougher

Scotland bowler Safyaan Sharif claimed his maiden One-Day International five-wicket haul. Picture; Tom Dulat/Getty
Scotland bowler Safyaan Sharif claimed his maiden One-Day International five-wicket haul. Picture; Tom Dulat/Getty
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Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer hailed yesterday’s tie with Zimbabwe as a “great game of cricket” even though the result harmed Scotland’s chances of reaching the 2019 World Cup.

After a superb bowling display by Safyaan Sharif and Michael Leask helped dismiss the hosts for 210 in Bulawayo, Scotland, with their last pair in the middle, needed just two runs from the final six deliveries to clinch victory and top spot in Group B.

However, after Blessing Muzarabani bowled a wide to level the scores, Brad Wheal edged the next ball to the keeper meaning both teams will carry three points into the Super Six.

If Scotland had won, they would have carried forward four points and they may now need to win at least two of their three Super Six matches to claim one of the two spots available at the World Cup.

Coetzer said: “It was a great game of cricket to be a part of and one we’ll probably remember for a long time

“Obviously it’s slightly disappointing to have got so close and to be going into the Super Six with one point fewer than we would have liked.

“Two runs away from the victory the heat of the moment got to us. The intensity at the end typified the game and indeed the whole competition. The bowlers deserve a lot of credit for bowling a side out for the fourth time. Safyaan Sharif and Michael Leask both did superbly.

“It was always going to be a challenging run-chase in the conditions and we got so close but credit to Zimbabwe as well. Now we’ll prepare for the Super Six.”

Scotland’s run-chase saw wickets fall at regular intervals. Matthew Cross, having hit a four and a six in his 13, was first to go to be quickly followed by Tom Sole, whose promotion up the order failed to bring the rapid runs the Scots had hoped for.

Calum MacLeod departed for a single before Scotland then lost talismanic captain Coetzer. The hero of last week’s run-chases against Hong Kong and Nepal, Coetzer again looked in prime form as he raced to 39 from 37 balls with four boundaries and a maximum. However, he was deceived by the leg-spin of Graeme Cremer, offering the bowler a simple return catch as the Scots slumped to 69-4.

Their hopes were boosted by a fine fifth-wicket stand between Richie Berrington and George Munsey, who steadily accumulated runs while picking off any stray deliveries.

The pair added 77 runs, Berrington leading the way with 47 while Munsey added 29 before Scotland suffered a double setback when both batsmen were dismissed in successive overs by Cremar.

At 171-8 Scotland looked out of it until a stand of 38 between Leask and Mark Watt took the Scots within two runs of their target, only for the game to take that final twist.

Earlier, Sharif claimed 5 -33 – the fourth best figures by a Scot in ODIs – while Leask weighed in with 4-37.

Sharif recovered from an expensive first over to make the breakthrough when he had hard-hitting Cephas Zhuwao caught by Watt.

Sharif struck again to trap the experienced Hamilton Masakadza lbw as Zimbabwe slipped to 42-2.

However, the home side rallied and a partnership of 64 between Solomon Mire and Brendan Taylor had the partisan crowd on their feet. Leask made the breakthrough to remove Mire for a patient 35 before Wheal shattered the stumps of Taylor, who had hit four boundaries and a maximum in his 44.

The Scots claimed a third wicket in quick succession when former Ayr professional Sikander Raza picked out Sole on the boundary to give Leask his second wicket.

Zimbabwe were wobbling on 152-6 when Sharif returned to have Sean Williams brilliantly caught at slip by MacLeod.

Craig Ervine’s half-century propelled the hosts towards the 200 mark and he reached 57 with five boundaries and a six before Leask found a way through his defences.

Leask and Sharif shared the last two wickets as Zimbabwe were all out in the 47th over.

Scotland begin their Super Six campaign against UAE on Thursday before facing rivals Ireland three days later and finishing with a potentially titanic clash with fallen giants West Indies on 21 March.