World Cup qualifier wrap: Scotland and Zimbabwe play to thrilling tie

Zimbabwe and Scotland had to share the points in their final Group B game 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 per cent 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.

Afghanistan live to fight another day after Nepal’s five-wicket victory over Hong Kong in Bulawayo sent them through to the Super Six stage.

Hong Kong needed to win to go through themselves and were hopeful of stealing the win when they reduced Nepal to 66/5 in pursuit of only 154 for victory.

But an outstanding unbroken stand of 89 for the sixth wicket between Rohit Kumar and Sompal Kami took Nepal home with 9.2 overs to spare.

Nepal’s chase began with a solid first-wicket partnership of 41 before seamer Aizaz Khan had opener Anil Sah caught behind for 26. Aizaz then took a smart return catch to dismiss fellow opener Gyanendra Malla, leaving Nepal on 46/2.

Key man Paras Khadka, the captain who had successive half-centuries against Afghanistan and Scotland, was bowled for only 11 by Tanwir Afzal. Khadka’s departure brought two more quick wickets with Ehsan Khan trapping Aarif Sheikh leg-before in his first over and then having DS Airee brilliantly caught at short leg by Shahid Wasif for 12.

Kumar played the anchor role with an impressive 48 not out from 86 balls while Kami, who earlier took the vital wicket of Hong Kong skipper Babar Hayat, took only 40 balls to make an unbeaten 37.

The pair ran superbly between the wickets and put pressure on the Hong Kong fielders. Kumar hit two successive fours to finish the 40th over from Aizaz Khan and then hit the winning runs in the following over from Ehsan Khan.

Earlier, Ehsan Khan had helped Hong Kong lend their innings an air of respectability by adding 32 for the ninth wicket with Ehsan Nawaz. In all 43 were added for the last two wickets.

Their total of 153 represented something of a recovery after a series of mini collapses left them 110/8 in a must-win game. Having won the toss and elected to bat, Hong Kong lost opener Christopher Carter in the seventh over when he had his off stump removed by Basant Regmi.

Skipper Babar Hayat and Nizakat Khan steered them to 53 for one before Hayat was caught and bowled by opening bowler Sompal Kami for a breezy 20 from 16 balls. The captain’s departure triggered a loss off three wickets for five runs in 3.1 overs while Nizakat battled on for an 84-ball 47 until he was sixth out.

Nepal’s 17-year-old leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane was the chief destroyer with an outstanding ten-over allocation in which he took three for 17.

With his 10th ball he had Anshuman Rath stumped for a single and with his 15th he trapped Shahid Wasif leg before, also for a single. Mandeep Singh was run out for three after setting off for a crazy single and ending up at the bowler’s end with his batting partner.

From 85/5, Nizakat and Tanwir Azal added a vital 21 for the sixth wicket before Nizakat fell, caught at slip by Nepal captain Paras Khadka off slow left-armer Lalit Rajbanshi. When Lamichhane trapped Aizaz Khan he had his third wicket and Hong Kong were tottering on 110/8, having lost three wickets for four runs in 4.5 overs.

A rollicking start, provided by Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis, and then a big partnership for the sixth wicket between Marlon Samuels and Rovman Powell powered Windies to a solid 309/6 in their rain-hit ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 Group A game against the Netherlands at Harare Sports Club on Monday.

Asked to bat, Windies got exactly the kind of start they would have wanted, Gayle and Lewis matching each other stroke for stroke in their 85-run stand, which was built in just eight-and-a-half overs. Lewis was on 34 from 21 balls when Roelof van der Merwe pulled off a stunning catch to send Gayle back off Paul van Meekeren. Going for one more big hit, Gayle managed to only send it high, and van der Merwe ran a fair distance from mid-off before grabbing the chance to send Gayle back for 46, scored in 31 balls with two fours and five sixes.

Lewis took charge after that, hitting Shane Snater, the medium pacer, for two fours and a six in the 14th over, and carrying on even as Shimron Hetmyer was out caught on the sweep off van der Merwe for 10.

The rain interruption came shortly after, reducing the game to 48 overs a side, with Lewis on 70 and Samuels on 1, and there was a quiet phase after that when the boundaries dried up for Lewis. Trying to up the rate, Lewis hit Peter Borren well but Pieter Seelaar took a stunner at point to send the opening batsman back for a 92-ball 84, studded with six fours and four sixes.

Shai Hope came and went, as did Jason Holder, but Samuels found an able partner in Powell, fresh off his heroics against Ireland.

Together, the two of them steadied the ship first and then brought out the big shots, sending out a chance or two along the way but keeping at it to add 99 runs together. Powell scored 52 of those, off just 38 balls with two fours and three sixes, as the Windies 300 came up on cue.

Powell was dismissed in the last over of the innings, but Samuels carried on till the end, unbeaten on 73 in 84 balls with five hits to the boundary, as the Windies batsmen did their bit to try and ensure their team ends the group stage with an all-win record.

From the point of view of the Netherlands, it’s a steep ask from here on, made doubly difficult because of the knowledge that defeat will knock them out of the tournament.

A domineering performance with bat and ball saw Ireland thrash United Arab Emirates in a rain-curtailed 44-overs-a-side fixture and cruise through to the Super Sixes stage of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifiers in style.

After losing the toss and being inserted under gloomy skies, Ireland’s openers William Porterfield and Paul Stirling got off to a flying start that belied the conditions, adding 68 either side of a rain break in the opening Powerplay.

While Porterfield fell short of a hundred, sent back for 92 off 103 balls, Stirling smashed a rollicking 126 off 117. Their association had extended to 205 in the 35th over when Imran Haider finally got a breakthrough with Poreterfield’s wicket. Porterfield had struck two sixes and 10 fours in his knock.

Stirling got his hundred soon after, in 106 balls, and went on the attack. By the time he had a skyer caught off Mohammad Naveed, he had five sixes and 15 fours in a 117-ball effort.

Naveed robbed the innings of some momentum, with two more quick wickets. But a blistering 26-ball 50 not out from Kevin O’Brien, which included seven fours and a six pushed the Ireland total past 300.

UAE’s reply never got going, Ghulam Shabber top-scoring with a turgid 19 as his side crawled to 91 all out in 29.3 overs. After Tim Murtagh and Barry McCarthy each claimed a wicket in their opening spells, Boyd Rankin wreaked havoc, claiming four wickets in 10 balls as he scythed through the middle order.

He finished with a career-best 4/15, his pace and bounce proving far too much for the opposition. Simi Singh also tweaked his way to a three-for, his first ODI wickets, as he mopped up the tail to good effect.

Ireland will progress to the Super Sixes with two points to their name. UAE faced a nervy hour and a half before discovering that the Netherlands didn’t beat West Indies.