By Mehluli Sibanda
Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer felt his team had once again dodged a bullet after they pulled off a great escape to end up with a hard-fought point in a thrilling tie against Scotland in their final ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier Group B match at Queens Sports Club yesterday.
The contest went to the wire with Scotland needing just two runs to win in the last over bowled by Blessing Muzarabani and when the lanky pace bowler sent down a wide, with his first delivery, the scores were tied.
And, at that stage, it looked like there would be only one winner — Scotland. But the next legal delivery was a vicious one and Muzarabani had Brad Wheal caught behind by Brendan Taylor and the scores levelled.
Cremer felt the Zimbabwean batsmen went out to soft dismissals and there were passages during the game when he really felt they had lost the initiative and the match.
“A bit nerve-racking, to be honest again, it was an excellent fight with the ball and on the field, but we shouldn’t have been in that position to try and defend 210,” he said.
“I felt there were too many soft dismissals when we were batting. We felt like we dodged a bullet there, they should have probably beaten us there, but again good fight, come away with a point, we will take that.” Zimbabwe finished on top of the group with seven points while Scotland ended second with the same number.
Afghanistan, beaten by Zimbabwe and Scotland, still made it to the next stage after Nepal defeated Hong Kong at Bulawayo Athletic Club.
Since points against teams that did not make it to the next round are thrown away, Zimbabwe head into the Super Six with three points.
The Chevrons now travel to Harare where they play against Ireland on Friday, take on West Indies next Monday with both fixtures at Harare Sports Club. If the Chevrons win those two games a World Cup place could be theirs.
They will then clash with United Arab Emirates next Thursday at Old Hararians. Craig Ervine had earlier on top scored with 57, followed by 44 from Brendan Taylor as Zimbabwe were bowled out for 210 in 46.4 overs.
Opening bowler Safyaan Sharif and left-arm spinner Michael Leask did the damage for Scotland. Man-of-the-match Sharif picked five for 33 in 8.4 overs while Leask had four for 37 in eight.
Having defended 196 against Afghanistan at the same venue a week ago, Zimbabwe must have felt that they had another chance to pull off a sensational victory.
Left arm-spinner Tendai Chisoro picked up two wickets in succession. Matthew Cross was the first to fall, taken at cover by Sean Williams.
Tom Sole followed, taken behind by Taylor. Zimbabwe claimed the big wicket of Calum MacLeod, left-arm spinner Williams getting him taken in the deep by Ervine. Cremer won the battle of the captains, getting his opposite number Kyle Coetzer for 39.
The Zimbabwe skipper could have had his second wicket, Richie Berrington offering a difficult chance which was not taken. A 76-run partnership between Berrington and George Munsey for the fifth wicket took Scotland closer to their target. Cremer broke the stand when he had Berrington taken by Raza for 47, the highest score by a Scottish batsman on the day.
The skipper struck again in the next over, Munsey popping one up to be taken by Taylor. Chisoro picked up his third, getting Craig Wallace lbw to leave the Scots 170 for seven, still needing 41 runs to win. He was shortly followed by Sharif who was caught and bowled by Sikandar Raza.
Seamer Tendai Chatara had Mark Watt in the penultimate over with the Scots requiring just two runs to win. It looked like Muzarabani had thrown it away when he gave away that extra, but the young bowler held his nerve and got the last wicket to ensure that his team took a point. Cremer and Chisoro had three wickets apiece, Williams, Muzarabani and Chatara had one wicket apiece
Zimbabwe 210; (Ervine 57, Taylor 44, Sharif 5 /33, Leask 4 /37)
Scotland 210; (Berrington 47, Cremer 3 /23, Chisoro 3/ 42)
Super Six / classification match fixtures
Following minor adjustments (matches start 09h30 local time; games involving the Netherlands and Nepal will be classified as List-A matches as the two sides don’t have ODI status coming into this tournament):
Thursday, 15 March – Windies v Afghanistan (S6), Harare Sports Club; UAE v Scotland (S6), Queens Sports Club; PNG v Nepal (play-off), Old Haraians; Netherlands v Hong Kong (play-off), Kwekwe Sports Club
Friday, 16 March — Ireland v Zimbabwe (S6), Harare Sports Club
Saturday, 17 March — 7th/8th play-off, Kwekwe Sports Club; 9th/10th play-off, Old Hararians
Sunday, 18 March — Ireland v Scotland (S6), Harare Sports Club
Monday, 19 March — Windies v Zimbabwe (S6), Harare Sports Club
Tuesday, 20 March — UAE v Afghanistan, Old Hararians
Thursday, 21 March — Windies v Scotland (S6), Harare Sports Club
Friday, 22 March — UAE v Zimbabwe (S6), Harare Sports Club
Friday, 23 March — Ireland v Afghanistan, Harare Sports Club
Sunday, 25 March — Final
Team P W L Pts NNR
Windies 4 4 0 8 1.171
Ireland 4 3 1 6 1.479
UAE 4 2 2 4 -1.177
N/lands 4 1 3 2 -0.709
PNG 4 0 4 0 -0.865
Team P W L Pts NNR
Zimbabwe 4 3 0 7 1.035
Scotland 4 3 0 7 0.855
Afghan 4 1 3 2 0.038
Nepal 4 1 3 2 -0.893
Hong Kong 4 1 3 2 -1.121