Scotland – 234-8 in 50 overs (Michael Leask 48, Matthew Cross 38, Brandon McMullen 34; Sean Williams 3/41, Tendai Chatara 2/46, Richard Ngarava 1/42)
Zimbabwe – 203 all out in 41.1 overs (Ryan Burl 83, Wessly Madhevere 40, Sikandar Raza 34; Chris Sole 3/33, Brandon McMullen 2/31, Michael Leask 2/33)
Scotland won by 31 runs
Zimbabwe’s dream of playing at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 went up in smoke after they went down to Scotland by 31 runs in a decisive qualifying match played at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Tuesday.
In what was a must-win game for both teams, Ryan Burl played a fighting innings of 83 but it was not sufficient to save the hosts from crashing to defeat as Chris Sole stole the show with an astounding spell of lethal pace bowling.
After losing the toss twice in their ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2023 Super Six matches in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe were no doubt relieved to win it this time and to be able to put Scotland in with the expectation that their bowlers would get early help from the pitch.
Probably the Zimbabwe pace bowlers did not get as much help as they expected, but nevertheless they bowled accurately and well, keeping the Scottish batsmen under pressure.
Chris McBride and Matthew Cross did a sound job to put on 56 for the first wicket in 16 overs – it was good cricket from both teams.
It was Tendai Chatara who finally broke that partnership, producing a superb delivery that jagged back from the off and uprooted McBride’s middle stump for 28.
Brandon McMullen came in and batted with more aggression, and with him scoring at a run a ball the score passed 100 in the 25th over with only one wicket down.
Then came an excellent spell of left-arm spin bowling from Sean Williams that changed the course of the match.
On 102 Cross, who had batted soundly but rather slowly, allowed his patience to snap, as he slogged across the line and was bowled for 38 off 75 balls.
In Williams’ next over, the dangerous McMullen also slogged at a delivery, but Blessing Muzarabani brought off a good catch in the deep – he went for 34 off the same number of balls.
Next to go was the captain, Richie Berrington, who has done Zimbabwe much damage in the past, but this time round mishit a drive and was caught at long-off by Kaia to give Williams his third wicket in succession and take the score to 118 for four in the 32nd over.
Zimbabwe had missed a trick when George Munsey was dropped in the deep and he went on to score 31 off 52 balls before Richard Ngarava returned and bowled him out at 168 for six in the 43rd over.
For a while Scotland fought back and Zimbabwe did not do too well in the death overs, as Michael Leask and Mark Watt were able to hit up 46 in just over five overs for the eighth wicket.
Their failure to finish off the innings sooner came back to hurt Zimbabwe at the end of the match.
At 216 in the penultimate over, Chatara finally had Leask caught on the leg side for 48 off 34 balls, the catcher being Wessly Madhevere, who earlier had been responsible for a run-out with a fine throw.
The innings closed at 234 for eight wickets, with Watt not out 21 off 15 balls, a total that Zimbabwe were favoured to exceed.
Williams finished with three wickets for 41 after making the vital breakthroughs, while Chatara took two valuable wickets at vital times.
Sikandar Raza also did a fine job with the ball conceding only 34 runs off his 10 overs, while Wellington Masakadza was only given five overs which cost only 18 runs.
Then Zimbabwe opened their innings to what must surely be the greatest spell of bowling in this tournament, a world-class performance from the pace bowler Chris Sole.
It began with the very first ball of the innings, a very fast-moving ball that Joylord Gumbie could only edge to the wicket-keeper.
In his second over Sole took the vital wicket of Craig Ervine to a ball that ripped back off the pitch and bowled him.
In his fourth over he did the same to Williams, bowling him out for 12 with another lethal delivery, and Zimbabwe were staggering at 29 for three.
Then his opening partner Brandon McMullen stepped in, moving a ball in sharply to trap Innocent Kaia lbw at 37 for four.
None of the four batters could be seriously faulted, as they were all dismissed by extremely good deliveries.
The Scottish captain decided to rest Sole after five overs instead of going in for the kill with the last two top batters together, and at one point later on he may have regretted it as Sikandar Raza and Burl began a recovery.
Raza decided to counter-attack, but he took risks, and was in fact dropped early in his innings off a skyer to midwicket.
In 10 overs they added 54 runs until Raza took one risk too many and was tempted into driving a catch to long-off – he made 34 off 40 balls.
Wessly Madhevere then came in to play his most valuable innings of the tournament, and at 164 for five Zimbabwe were still in with a chance.
But then Madhevere was out for 40, and that was the end of Zimbabwe’s hopes.
Burl could not find a partner to stay with him, and all hope disappeared when he was ninth out at 197, being caught off a slog-sweep for a superb 83 off 84 balls, with a six and eight fours.
The last pair took the score past 200, but finally Chatara the last man out and Scotland celebrated a truly great victory for them.
Sole’s figures of three for 33 give no hint of his magnificent bowling that shattered Zimbabwe’s top order, and he might well have been given the opportunity of finishing off the innings.
It was Zimbabwe’s great misfortune to be on the receiving end of a wonderful spell of match-winning bowling.