Zimbabwe hit back to draw with Scotland

And so to the rematch. After Scotland’s first win in an official ODI against Full Member opposition came perhaps their biggest test yet as they faced Zimbabwe in the second installment of their two-match series.

A breathless finish on Thursday had been touched by controversy as Malcolm Waller’s pursuit of a last-minute heist for the visitors was ended by a disputed catch on the boundary, and against opponents looking to make amends Grant Bradburn’s side faced a stiff examination as they sought to complete an unprecedented series victory over a Test-playing nation.

It was to be a tale of two bowling attacks as Zimbabwe’s spinners proved to be the difference in a six-wicket win for the Africans. Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer claimed his third five-for in limited overs internationals as despite half-centuries from Kyle Coetzer and Calum MacLeod a sub-200 score proved too little to defend.

In their four fifty-over matches prior to this series Scotland had zig-zagged between victory and defeat as win sin the first games against both Sri Lanka and Namibia had been followed up by disappointment, but after winning the toss and again choosing to bat Coetzer laid down a clear marker that his side was looking to break that sequence as he spearheaded a rip-roaring start for the hosts.

The Scotland captain went straight on the offensive as he followed up his hundred on Thursday with another rapid half century. He dominated the early exchanges, taking fourteen off the second over to race the score along to 27-0 after three.

At the other end Matthew Cross was finding it tougher going, though, and Graeme Cremer’s decision to turn to the spin of Sean Williams in the fourth over built pressure on the wicketkeeper-batsman as he batted out a maiden. Williams had only conceded one run when in his second over a good ball accounted for Cross, bowled for 3.

New man MacLeod quickly settled, however, as he and Coetzer made good progress. Zimbabwe’s spin had put a check on the early rush of runs but both batsmen continued to find the boundary with regularity against the seamers before Coetzer capped another fine performance with his fourth fifty in seven innings since regaining the captaincy. His opposite number Cremer was to have the final word, however, as he tempted Coetzer (61) forward to allow Peter Moor the opportunity to complete a sharp stumping.

At the other end MacLeod looked in good touch as he built his innings. A trademark reverse-sweep for four off Sikandar Raza brought up Scotland’s hundred and MacLeod continued to time the ball well as he moved towards fifty, skipping back in the crease to pull Cremer for another four before reaching the landmark in the 25th overwith a seventh boundary.

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He was to fall for 58 after being bowled by a quicker one from Williams (2-26), but with the score at 135-3 in the 28th he and Coetzer had laid a good platform. With the spinners bowling well on a worn track, however, the remainder of Scotland’s batting line-up was about to be tested.

Playing on the same pitch as had been used on Thursday Zimbabwe’s spin attack was to prove telling and Cremer ripped out of Scotland’s middle order with a succession of wickets to quickly put the visitors on top. After trapping Richie Berrington (7) in front Cremer added two more in the 31st as first Con de Lange (1) then Preston Mommsen (4) fell,  and when Craig Wallace (7) was bowled to become Cremer’s fifth victim Scotland were in deep trouble at 150-7.

With the Zimbabwe spinners continuing to test the Scottish batsmen Raza (2-35) claimed two wickets before Ryan Burl (1-2) finally ended Scottish resistance with the wicket of last man Chris Sole (2). On a tricky pitch, however, Zimbabwe’s chase was unlikely to be straightforward, and with overs to be bowled before the official lunch break Scotland looked to hit back strongly.

That Zimbabwe intended to try and knock off the runs quickly was apparent from the off as Solomon Mire sent the final ball of the first over crashing onto the roof of the media box. With Hamilton Masakadza finding the boundary in the opening stages, too, Zimbabwe had reached 30-0 by the end of the fourth in a confident start.

The introduction of Chris Sole in the fifth gave Scotland renewed hope, however, as Zimbabwe wobbled. The Grange bowler removed Mire (17) off the first ball of his spell before Masakadza (12) followed at the end of his second over to a good catch at point by Berrington. Sole was finding considerable pace and bounce and when Williams (6), too, was sent on his way after yet another outstanding catch in Scotland colours from Berrington,the players left the field with Zimbabwe 44-3 and the hosts right back in the game.

Scottish hopes of a collapse were not to be realised, however, as Craig Ervine and Sikander Razac almed African nerves with a fifty partnership. The score had progressed to 99-3 when Davey’s outswinger sent Ervine (30) on his way but new man Burl(30*) ensured that the ship steadied again and he and Raza compounded the pressure on Scotland by taking the target to below fifty in the 28th over.

It was a position that Zimbabwe would not allow to slip as Raza brought up his half century before crowning an excellent all-round performance with the winning runs off the final ball of the 37th over.

By Jake Perry