Zimbabwe 210 (Ervine 57, Sharif 5-33, Leask 4-37) tied with Scotland 210 ( Berrington 47, Cremer 3-21, Chisoro 3-42)
BY KEVIN MAPASURE
MOST of them barely blinking, others barely believing and some even barely breathing, the fans stood almost helplessly and waited for a final crucial over as Zimbabwe sought to claim a win from the jaws of defeat.
In the end, all hope was invested in a 21-year-old rookie, Blessing Muzarabani, as he took the ball to bowl the last over trying to save a match that looked lost.
The crowd amplified the noise befitting the occasion of such a great spectacle.
Zimbabwe needed everything to go perfectly.
In that last over, Scotland needed two runs to win their Group B clash of the International Cricket Council World Cup qualifier.
Zimbabwe needed good bowling, a wicket or a maiden over and the former looked more likely.
That over took forever to be bowled as the team converged for several mini conferences to set up a plan.
In the meantime, Muzarabani paced around, ball in hand waiting to thrill the thousands that were watching.
When he began his run up it was hardly watchable for those of weaker nerves.
That first ball was a mood dampener, as he bowled a wide. The scoreboard ticked and the scores were level, 210 apiece with six more deliveries to be bowled.
Surely, this was lost. But the crowd refused to give up as more meetings were held on the field.
Hardly fazed by the last setback the young man went again.
Bang, nicked and caught. It was game over.
Brendan Taylor, after taking the catch, threw the ball high up in the sky in jubilation and hardly has an idea where it landed.
There was chaos on the field, with players running all over the place in celebration.
The wicket was delivered and a point was saved.
What a match and what enthralling entertainment in the end.
Zimbabwe and Scotland went into the match tied on four points each, with the aim of earning two more that they would take to the Super Six stage.
Graeme Cremer won the toss and elected to bat, as he has done throughout the tournament so far and the target was to get at least 250 runs and then take advantage of a used up wicket with spin, a department Zimbabwe had fortified with the inclusion of previously unused Tendai Chisoro.
It was a good plan, but things didn’t go accordingly, as Zimbabwe staggered to 210 all out.
The scorecard was hardly pleasing, as it featured good starts that were not converted.
Craig Ervine (57) finally crossed the half century mark, but didn’t go much further while Brendan Taylor stumbled on 44 after he was castled by Brad Wheal.
After Taylor had departed, Zimbabwe still looked to be in safe hands, as Sikandar Raza and Ervine combined.
Raza had scored a century and a half ton before and more of the same was expected off him.
Yet, he was a disappointment when he attempted to hit a six on the second delivery he faced, he got caught for 1.
Things never really got better as Sean Williams, Cremer, and Chisoro got 7, 8 and 10, respectively. At the top, the start had not been as explosive as was expected with Solomon Mire (35) and Cephas Zhuwao (18) not allowed to dominate the Scotland pace attack.
Safyaan Sharif was the pick of the Scots’ bowlers taking 5 for 33 in 8.1 overs.
Then came the juicy part of the story, as Zimbabwe set out to defend a measly total.
They started off with seam but soon spin was called and the magic began.
Chisoro took two early wickets by removing Mathew Cross (13) and Chris Sole (1) before Williams further reduced the visitors to 3 for 55 in the 11th over.
More wickets fell with spin doing the trick and by the 42nd over Scotland were limping at 170 for 7.
With all the spin in the ranks having been used, it was left to the two seamers Muzarabani and Tendai Chatara to bowl the last few overs. In the penultimate over, Chatara picked up a crucial wicket to leave Muzarabani with the task of getting the last to save a crucial point.
Zimbabwe and Scotland take three points each to the Super Six.