Scotland 317-6 (KJ Coetzer 109, SC Williams 2 for 48) beat Zimbabwe 272 (MN Waller 92, CD de Lange 5 for 60) by 26 runs (DLS Method)
In an environment in which the lines between the haves and have-nots of international cricket are becoming ever sharper, opportunities for even the very best Associate nations to test themselves against Full Member opposition are increasingly rare. Some smart work by Cricket Scotland, however, has resulted in four fifty-over matches being scheduled for the Scottish summer, and after sharing the spoils with Sri Lanka in Kent Scotland welcomed Zimbabwe to Edinburgh for the first of two One-Day Internationals.
It proved to be an historic day for the hosts as Kyle Coetzer led from the front with a second hundred to add to the one that took his side to their memorable victory in Beckenham. Five wickets from vice-captain Con de Lange then added the finishing touches to what was Scotland’s first win in an official ODI against a Full Member nation.
Scotland had gone into the game looking to build on some impressive progress in recent months. Painful losses to Afghanistan and Zimbabwe at the 2016 World T20 had left a determination to learn lessons, and having backed their words with some significant actions on the field it was a harder-edged Scotland which arrived at The Grange keen to show that the seven-wicket drubbing of Sri Lanka had been no flash-in-the-pan.
Ironically, Grant Bradburn’s side has been the beneficiary of Zimbabwe’s difficulty in finding fixtures too. With matches against the highest-ranked teams in short supply the African side has instead looked to the Associate world to provide opposition, and having already played an ODI series against Afghanistan and further ‘A’ games against Namibia and Canada this year Zimbabwe will next play three ODIs in the Netherlands before departing for Sri Lanka in July.
Scotland’s victory was set up on the back of a beautifully paced innings with the bat. After winning the toss, Coetzer and opening partner Matthew Cross began to accelerate in the fifth over as Cross helped himself to the first two boundaries of the innings. Coetzer had found his range, too, as he plundered three boundaries and a six off a Tendai Chatara over that cost nineteen as Scotland climbed to 48-0 after seven.
The first two deliveries of the eighth were also destined to rattle to the boundary before Richard Ngarava struck the first blow for the visitors as he claimed the wicket of Cross (33). Calum MacLeod (13), Richie Berrington (15) and Preston Mommsen (10) departed too as Zimbabwe steadily made inroads, but at 174-4 after 31 overs Scotland was well-placed to post a big score.
The cornerstone of the innings again proved to be Coetzer. Fresh from his hundred in the second World Cricket League encounter with Namibia the Scotland captain again looked imperious as he brought up his fourth ODI hundred off only 88 balls. With thirteen boundaries and two sixes it had been another magnificent knock from the Aberdonian, and when he finally departed for 109 after a catch by Solomon Mire on the deep midwicket boundary he had given his side significant momentum to carry into the closing overs.
Craig Wallace and Michael Leask eagerly took up the mantle as both posted their highest ODI scores thanks to some big hitting. Although Wallace (58) was to depart in the closing stages after being caught by Sean Williams, Leask (48*), winning his fiftieth international cap, remained unbeaten as Scotland finished just one short of their highest ever total against a Test nation. It had been a terrific effort.
Zimbabwe needed to put down a marker as they began their chase and Hamilton Masakadza looked set to rise to the challenge as he pulled Safyaan Sharif for four before hitting the next ball over the sightscreen and out of the ground in the fifth. Another big maximum followed off an Ali Evans over which saw the opening stand pass fifty, but with the score on 55 Scotland had their first breakthrough as Masakadza was run out for 38. With a key player back in the pavilion drama was to quickly turn to crisis for the visitors as Craig Ervine top-edged the final ball of the following over, Cross completing the catch which sent Ervine on his was for a three-ball duck and left Scotland sensing an opportunity.
With the clouds gathering Mire and Williams looked to rebuild but a third breakthrough was to prove telling. Mire, who had batted well for his 40, sent the ball high towards Sharif at deep square leg as he swept against the spin of de Lange to give Scotland a wicket which moved them ahead in the Duckworth-Lewis calculations.
Scoreboard pressure now started to tell and with de Lange and Leask keeping the scoring tight Zimbabwe had to force the pace. Williams could only watch, however, as his partner Sikandar Raza (4) departed as a smart piece of work from Berrington and a superb take from Cross combined to run him out.
It proved to be the last act before a lengthy delay as the rain moved in to heap more misery on the visitors. At 107-4 after 21 overs Zimbabwe were 59 behind the DLS par score and when the skies finally cleared to allow the players to return the target had been revised to 299 from 43 overs.
Much now rested on the shoulders of Williams and he began with two boundaries off his first four balls after the restart. The left-hander signalled that the result was no foregone conclusion with some great hitting as he took the attack to Scotland, going to his twenty-fifth ODI fifty with a clipped four off de Lange. A fifth wicket arrived when Ryan Burl (8) played around a straight ball from de Lange, but with Williams still there and motoring nervous glances were cast toward the scoreboard.
Anxiety was to be replaced by delight, however. Two balls after playing an audacious paddled flick over the keeper for four Williams (70) finally fell as he nicked a slower ball from Richie Berrington to the outstanding Cross. With nine fours and a six it had been a magnificent rearguard effort from the all-rounder and Scotland’s celebrations left little doubt that they felt that the key wicket had fallen. With the returning de Lange following it up with a double breakthrough in the 33rd over for good measure the entertainment looked all but over.
Zimbabwe had one final trick up their sleeve, however, as Malcolm Waller picked up where Williams had left off with a superb 92 off only 62 balls which got Scottish nerves jangling once more. With ten fours and five sixes an improbable smash-and-grab victory was briefly on the cards for the Africans so Scottish relief was palpable when Sole held on to the crucial catch at deep square leg which send him on his way. Relief turned to delight five balls later as Sole took a second catch and so confirm Scotland’s second win over a Full Member within a month.