Scotland (234/8, 50 overs) defeated Zimbabwe (203 all out, 41.1 overs) by 31 runs
Scotland’s dreams of the Cricket World Cup in India lived to fight another day as Zimbabwe’s hopes came to a heartbreaking end in a back-and-forth game in Bulawayo.
It was a must win game for both teams, and in a tournament where batting has been difficult early in the day, the toss loomed as a key moment even before the start of play. It was won by Craig Ervine, who chose to field first.
Despite the challenging conditions, Scotland tentatively saw out the first powerplay with no loss of wicket, despite Chris McBride being dropped by Tendai Chatara in the 9th over. Chatara made up for his drop by bowling McBride for 28 in the 17th, by which point Scotland were 56/1.
Scotland battled on slowly, before Sean Williams plied out a trio of wickets. First was Matt Cross for 38, Brandon McMullen followed two overs later for 34 and Richie Berrington later for 7. Scotland had slipped from 102/1 to 118/4 in the 32nd over.
Things took another downward turn for Scotland when Tom Mackintosh was run out backing up when Blessing Muzarabani deflected George Munsey’s drive back on to the stumps. Munsey was bowled for 30, and Chris Greaves the casualty of a 2nd run out leaving Scotland seven down for 170.
It fell to Michael Leask and Mark Watt to drag Scotland beyond 200. The pair raised 64 in the last 7 overs to give Scotland a defendable total. Leask was caught for 48, whilst Watt ended 21 not out.
And if the Saltires had the momentum in the run up to the interval, they certainly carried it though into the chase. Chris Sole found Joylord Gumbie’s edge first ball, and Cross claimed a regulation catch. But the real damage was yet to come as Sole, who was consistently bowling at speeds of 145 kmh, bowled both Ervine and Williams. When McMullen removed Innocent Kaia in the 8th over, the Chevrons were 37/4.
Two partnerships got Zimbabwe back in the chase. The first was between Sikandar Raza and Ryan Burl, worth 54. Raza had been dropped on 8, and added another 22 runs to his tally before being caught on the boundary. Burl, joined by Wessly Madhevere, continued to push on, and added another 73 for the 6th wicket. At 164/5, needing 71 off the last 20 overs, the Chevrons appeared to have regained the upper hand, until Mark Watt trapped Madhevere LBW.
Burl was left to bat with the tail, but wickets frequently fell at the other end, with Masakadza and Ngarava falling in consecutive overs. If Burl was to do this, it would be off his own bat. Burl took on Michael Leask in the 39th over, sweeping a four and a six off consecutive balls, before perishing miscuing another slog sweep to McMullen. Zimbabwe were 9 down, still needing 38.
Safyaan Sharif took the final wicket, Tendai Chatara, bowled. Zimbabwe were 203 all out, giving Scotland a 31-run win. The result eliminates Zimbabwe, who now tied on 6 points with Scotland have played all their games but have a weaker net run rate. Although Scotland could finish behind Zimbabwe if heavily defeated by Netherlands on Thursday, such a result would put Netherlands ahead of both sides.
It ends a heartbreaking day for the Chevrons, who were left with a sense of déjà vu from the 2018 qualifying campaign. Zimbabwe were unbeaten in the first 5 games of both tournaments, before losing their last two games in each where one more win would have secured their place in the World Cup. In 2018 it was defeats at the hands of Afghanistan and UAE, in 2023 it was Sri Lanka and Scotland.
For the Saltires, they live to fight another day, and will face Netherlands in a crunch-match on Thursday. A win for Scotland would put them in clear water, but if the Netherlands win the final berth at this year’s World Cup will be determined by net run rate. The Dutch need to win by approximately 32 runs, or with six overs to spare, in order to overhaul the Scots’ superior NRR.
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