Scotland 256-3 (C MacLeod 157*, Mujeeb ur Rahman 2 for 47) beat Afghanistan 255 (Mohammad Nabi 92, B Wheal 3 for 36) by 7 wickets [Scorecard]
A brilliant century from Calum MacLeod took Scotland to a stunning victory over Group B favourites Afghanistan in the opening match of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier at the Bulawayo Athletic Club. MacLeod’s brilliant 157* was the pick of a dominant display as they put down a clear marker for the tournament ahead.
Having won the toss Scotland struck with the final ball of the first over as Hampshire’s Brad Wheal bowled Ihsanullah for a duck, and with Richie Berrington adding three wickets including that of danger-man Mohammad Shahzad (30) Afghanistan were 71-4 after 19 overs and firmly on the back foot.
The stage was set for Mohammad Nabi, however, who counter-attacked in brilliant style to tilt the balance back toward the favourites. Nabi raced to a half-century, and with Najibullah Zadran starting to cut loose, too, it was Scotland’s nerves that were suddenly beginning to jangle.
With the partnership on 149 came the vital breakthough, however, as Zadran (67) was caught by Michael Leask at long-on, and with Nabi (92) run-out next ball the momentum was with Scotland once more. A strong finish saw Afghanistan slip from 220-4 to 255 all out with two balls of the innings remaining.
It had been an outstanding performance in the field with Wheal (3 for 36), Berrington (3-42) and Safyaan Sharif (2 for 46) all amongst the wickets. In facing an attack which included Rashid Khan, however, it would take a similar effort from Scotland’s batsmen to bring home the victory.
The task facing the Scots grew with loss of their captain in the fourth over as the in-form Kyle Coetzer (2) was stumped by Shahzad off the bowling of Mujeeb ur Rahman. The sixteen-year-old added a second wicket in the sixth, too, as Matthew Cross (18) was bowled to leave Scotland wobbling at 21-2.
The wicket proved to be Afghanistan’s last hurrah, however. Remarkably, brilliantly, MacLeod and Berrington first consolidated then attacked. Rashid came in for particularly harsh treatment as the number one-ranked bowler in ODIs conceded ten off two separate overs as the Scottish duo kept the required run-rate well in hand.
MacLeod brought up a superb 99-ball hundred, his sixth in ODIs, before Berrington reached his half-century in the 34th over. Although the Clydesdale man was to fall with the finishing-line in sight, Rashid trapping him in front for 67, the result was by that stage a formality. MacLeod struck 23 fours and one six as he passed 150 for the third time, the only player from any Associate nation to do so, before Munsey (10*) nudged the final single to take Scotland to their target with 16 balls to spare.
It was a truly magnificent performance; controlled, calm and dominant. That this is very a different Scotland to the one which lost so closely to Afghanistan at the 2015 World Cup and 2016 World T20 is clear. Whatever the remainder of this tournament brings, the message Scotland have sent out to their opponents is plain. We are a team to watch.
Scotland's @calummacleod640 reflects on the teams performance today, his innings and how to play Rashid Khan. #followscotland pic.twitter.com/HnFMYsFjLl
— Cricket Scotland (@CricketScotland) March 4, 2018