ZIMBABWE captain Graeme Cremer believes their shock defeat to Scotland in the first ODI was important for his team to find itself and play to something close to its potential again in the second match, which they won convincingly, to square the series. The visitors struggled in a run chase in the first ran-ravaged game although others will say that the controversial dismissal of Malcolm Waller, at a time when he appeared to be pushing his team to victory, played a huge part in that shock defeat in the first ODI.
But Zimbabwe showed their class in the second game and destroyed the hosts to take something out of the tour ahead of three ODI matches against the Netherlands this week and the tour of Sri Lanka.
Tourism has always been key to Edinburgh’s enduring prosperity but there is one group of visitors the capital has often struggled to attract. W
hen Zimbabwe appeared on Thursday at The Grange for the first of two one-day cricket internationals it was the first visit of a full member side since England came north in May 2014 for a rain-interrupted contest that Scotland lost by 39 runs.
Opportunities have been scarce to test themselves on the road, too.
The previous ODI outside of a major tournament on Scotland’s travels was away to Australia in March 2015 prior to the World Cup in the same country.
As an aspiring associate nation, these are the contests Scotland would love to be looking forward to on a more regular basis, the hardest part often trying to convince touring Test-playing nations to add a short stint north of the border to their schedules.
One or two results of late have shown that Scotland are more than capable of offering the lower-ranked full member teams a decent challenge.
Sri Lanka were beaten by seven wickets in an unofficial 50-over contest in Kent last month, while Zimbabwe were beaten by 26 runs on Thursday in what was Scotland’s first ever ODI win over a full member.
Back-to-back victories, though, would elude Scotland on Saturday as the empire struck back.
As had also been their case in the recent series with Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe gained swift revenge in the second game of this twin set, ending a breakthrough summer for Scotland on something of a downbeat note.
The home side had posted a colossal 317 in the first game against the same opponents but, having won the toss and elected to bat again, they fell someway short of such a total second time around.
Kyle Coetzer (61) and Calum Macleod (58) both registered half-centuries to offer early hope but they received little batting support, Michael Leask the next highest scorer with 11 as Scotland collapsed from 106-1 to 169 all out after 42 overs.
Graeme Cremer was the pick of the bowlers taking 5-29.
Zimbabwe may not be among the top echelon of Test-playing nations but they were never going to pass up this opportunity to register a win.
Reaching 44/3 at lunch, they coasted through to their target with six wickets and 13 overs to spare. Sikandar Raza top scored with 58, while Chris Sole may take some solace from bowling figures of 3-36 on an otherwise disappointing day for the hosts.
“At stages today we had Zimbabwe massively under pressure but then we had quite a big collapse and we couldn’t put the total on board that we would have hoped,” was the assessment of captain Coetzer.
This was Scotland’s final examination of the summer, their next involvement away to Papa New Guinea in October on Intercontinental Cup and World Cricket League duty.
But the appetite for the bigger occasions has been whetted now, regardless of this result. England have already confirmed they will come north next summer, with Pakistan also pencilled in to appear.
Turning these kind of ties into established fixtures on the Scottish cricket calendar remains the ongoing challenge.
Both Ireland and Afghanistan are expected to be afforded full Test-playing status later this week – the first to be welcomed into cricket’s highest stratosphere since 2000 – while there is also talk of the creation of a new 13-nation ODI league.
Scotland have their eyes on being that lucky 13th side, although others, like the Dutch, will also fancy their chances of being asked to join the elite.
Saturday was a disappointing day for the Scots but there is plenty to be optimistic about as Scottish cricket hopes for more chances to take on the big boys in the years ahead.
“You would have to say it’s been a breakthrough summer,” added Coetzer. “Beating Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in the eight or 10 days or so that we’ve had this summer – we’d definitely have taken that at the start of the season. We’ve definitely put in a case to have more games against full members. And if we do get those opportunities I’m sure we won’t be far away [from matching them].” — Sports Reporter/Sunday Herald