Harare: Michael Leask helped Scotland to a stunning 31-run victory over Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on Tuesday to keep their ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 hopes alive. The win moves Scotland level with Zimbabwe on six points in the Super Six, with one match still to play against the Netherlands. With the Dutch also on four points, that game will decide who joins Sri Lanka in qualifying for the World Cup.
Ryan Burl’s 83 looked as though it might get the hosts out of trouble, but he was dismissed by Leask, Scotland’s hero on the day, taking Zimbabwe’s hopes with him. Zimbabwe could have secured a place in India with a win in this game, but instead see their hopes of qualification ended, with their net run-rate worse than both the Dutch and the Scots.
The other game of the day saw Ireland come out on top in a thriller against Nepal, winning by two wickets with four balls to spare to claim seventh place.
After being put into bat, Scotland started in measured fashion, a 56-run opening stand ended in the 17th over when Christopher McBride was bowled by Tendai Chatara for 28.
Opening partner Matthew Cross was next to go, the first of Sean Williams’s three victims, bowled for 38 to make it 102 for two.
Brandon McMullen made a run-a-ball 34 but followed shortly after, with Williams removing him and skipper Richie Berrington (7). Suddenly, Scotland were 118 for four with 31.3 overs gone.
George Munsey (31) mounted some resistance but at 170 for seven, hopes of a big score seemed remote.
Leask had other ideas, smashing 48 from just 34 balls, while Mark Watt’s 21 not out helped Scotland reach 234 for eight, with 54 runs from the last five overs real
Chris Sole (3/33) gave Scotland the dream start as Zimbabwe came out to bat, removing Joylord Gumbie caught behind off the very first ball.
He added Craig Ervine and in-form Williams, before Innocent Kaia was trapped leg before by McMullen to leave Zimbabwe in trouble at 37 for four.
Sikandar Raza (34) is a man for the big occasion and started to rebuild with Burl, but was caught on the boundary off Chris Greaves after a 64-run stand.
In came Wessly Madhevere, struggling for form but not short of potential. He and Burl started to find their rhythm and looked like they might swing the game back Zimbabwe’s way.
They put on 73 for the sixth wicket, before Mark Watt provided the crucial breakthrough, getting Madhevere LBW for 40.
From there, Burl had to see his side through with the help of the tail, but no one could stick around.
He took it upon himself to see home the chase, but after a four and a six off consecutive balls from Leask, he tried another big shot and could only find McMullen, departing for 83 with 38 still required.
That proved beyond the final pair, Safyaan Sharif finishing it off in style by bowling Chatara for two.
Ireland scrap to seventh place
Ireland needed all 50 overs to chase down 269 as they wrapped up seventh place with a two-wicket win over Nepal.
Half-centuries from Harry Tector and Curtis Campher were crucial in their chase before the bowlers saw them over the line.
After electing to field, Ireland’s Craig Young (2/36) made an impact after coming as first change, removing Kushal Bhurtel (8) and Gyanendra Malla (7), both caught behind to leave Nepal 44 for two.
A 50-run stand between Arjun Saud (48) and skipper Rohit Paudel (29) kept the scoreboard ticking over, but they fell in the space of three overs to allow Ireland to get back on top.
Kushal Malla’s 38-ball 44 came to an end when he was caught by Tector of Barry McCarthy (2/63) but Sandeep Lamichhane (32) and Gulsan Jha (57 not out) provided some valuable runs down the order.
They added 80 for the eighth wicket, with Jha kicking on and hitting four fours and three sixes to take Nepal to a respectable 268 for nine from their 50 overs.
Batsmen under pressure
Karan KC (4/58) got the wicket of Andy McBrine (17) early in Ireland’s chase, soon followed by skipper Andy Balbirnie (1). And when Paul Stirling was bowled by Jha, Ireland were 60 for three and under some pressure.
Tector (60) steadied the ship with Lorcan Tucker (24) but when they were both dismissed, Ireland still needed 135 to win with half the team already gone.
Campher and George Dockrell came together for a crucial partnership, putting on 84 in 15 overs, Karan returning to get the crucial wicket of Campher for 62.
Dockrell (33) was then caught off Kishore Mahato, leaving it to the bowlers to finish the job.
They did just that, Mark Adair with two boundaries in the 48th over to bring it down to single figures.
Karan removed Adair (18) in his final over, leaving Ireland needing five off the last with two wickets in hand. McCarthy did the honours, hitting a boundary to win it.