Zimbabwe salvage last-gasp tie against Scotland

By ICC March 12, 2018
Zimbabwe's Blessing Muzarabani celebrates taking the wicket of Kyle Coetzer to pull a tie out of a top-of-the-table ICC World Cup qualifying clash against Scotland. Zimbabwe's Blessing Muzarabani celebrates taking the wicket of Kyle Coetzer to pull a tie out of a top-of-the-table ICC World Cup qualifying clash against Scotland. ICC

Zimbabwe and Scotland had to share the points in their final Group B ICC World Cup qualifier as scores were tied after a dramatic chase by the Scots.

In a tense final over, Kyle Coetzer’s team required two runs to win with one wicket in hand.

The game looked done when Blessing Muzarabani sent down a wide first ball to draw the scores level. But with his next delivery, the Zimbabwean quick sent down a venomous length delivery at No.11 Brad Wheal, who edged through to wicket-keeper Brendan Taylor to steal a share of the points for the hosts and break Scottish hearts.

In pursuit of 210, Coetzer himself made a comfortable 37-ball 39 before being caught and bowled to the leg-spin of opposing skipper Graeme Cremer, to reduce Scotland to 69/4 from 14 overs following the early departures of Matthew Cross (13), Tom Sole (4) and Calum MacLeod (1).

With Scotland well ahead of the required rate, Richie Berrington, who top-scored with a calm 47 from 76 balls, and George Munsey (29) put on 79 in 23 overs, playing the spinners without alarm. But out of nowhere Berrington punched Cremer to extra-cover and let Zimbabwe back into the game.

Munsey fell soon after and the pressure was on as Craig Wallace (13) and Mark Watt (17) each chipped in.

Alongside Michael Leask, who was left stranded with a nerveless 28 off 28 to complete a marvellous all-round performance following his 4/37 with the ball, Watt got his team to within two runs of victory and a 100 percent winning record for the tournament.

He hit consecutive boundaries in the penultimate over before skying Tendai Chatara the very next ball – the last of the over – to be caught. The batsmen crossed to leave the incoming Wheal on strike for the final over, before Zimbabwe completed yet another comeback in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo.

Zimbabwe had originally been kept at bay with the bat thanks to a wonderful five-wicket haul from Scotland quick bowler Safyaan Sharif.

An unusually sedate Solomon Mire at the top and Brendan Taylor and Craig Ervine in the middle shored up the Zimbabwe innings, but Sharif and Leask struck telling blows to stop the hosts at 210.

After opting to bat first, Zimbabwe had Cephas Zhuwao hitting three fours and a six in a nine-ball blitz that gave him 18 runs before he became Sharif’s first victim. Mire and Hamilton Masakadza, who hit a wonderful 84 in Zimbabwe’s previous game against Hong Kong, kept things moving smoothly, but the right-arm Sharif struck again to dismiss Masakadza for 16.

The total was 42/2 then, but Scotland had to wait a while before tasting success again as Mire and Taylor took Zimbabwe past 100 by the 18th over. Mire fell soon after, his 35 runs coming in close to two hours off 56 balls, with two boundaries, as Leask, the off-spinner, got his first wicket.

Taylor and Craig Ervine then added a further 32 runs to the total, but that’s when the floodgates opened. Taylor went first, bowled by paceman Wheal for a 54-ball 44, and was followed by Sikandar Raza (1) and Sean Williams (7), who fell to Leask and Sharif respectively, and Zimbabwe had gone from 138/3 to 152/6 in just over five overs.

Cremer (8) and Tendai Chisoro hung around long enough for Ervine to revive the innings somewhat, but Sharif, especially, and Leask were on target more often than not. Ervine hit a responsible 57 in 69 balls to pull Zimbabwe past 200 before being bowled by Leask, who also accounted for Chisoro (10), even as Sharif cleaned up the tail expertly.

Sharif ended with 5/33, while Leask had 4/37.

Both teams had already secured their place in the Super Sixes and maintain their unbeaten runs in the competition but, with their points tied on 7 apiece, Zimbabwe progress as group winners based on their superior net-run-rate.

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