Richie Berrington played a brilliant innings with the bat and Safyaan Sharif led the way with the ball as Scotland won a dramatic first match of the Wolf777 T20 Series versus Zimbabwe at The Grange on Wednesday afternoon.
Scotland won the toss and decided to bat, but that decision backfired slightly early on in the innings.
Key man George Munsey was out LBW for one off the third ball of the match bowled by Wellington Masakadza.
His skipper Kyle Coetzer was then clean bowled off the seventh ball of the day by Tendai Chatara and when Oli Hairs was caught in the next over off the bowling of Richard Ngarava the home side were 17-3.
Scotland needed someone to steady the ship and rebuild things and that job was taken up by the ever-reliable Berrington.
The 34-year-old put on 13 with Calum MacLeod for the fourth wicket before the latter was bowled by Chatara, but Berrington continued on his merry way and brought up the team’s 50 in the ninth over when he hit a big six off Masakadza.
By this time Berrington was batting with Matthew Cross, but when the Heriot’s wicketkeeper was caught by Sean Williams off the bowling of Luke Jongwe for 15 the Scots were 75-5.
Berrington was the one man standing firm though and the Clydesdale man, who is ranked number three in the world in terms of T20 all-rounders, reached his half century in the 14th over.
The team’s 100 came up in the 16th over and by the end of the innings some well-placed boundaries and clever running from Berrington saw him finish up on 82 not out from 61 balls.
In total Scotland made 141-6 from their 20 overs – Sharif also at the crease on nine not out – and while it was below what they wanted, at least it gave them something to really have a go at and bowl at.
Sharif gave his side the perfect start to the Zimbabwe reply, a cracking delivery having Wessley Madhevere caught behind by Cross off the first ball of the innings.
The same bowler then had Tadiwanashe Marumani caught by Ali Evans in the third over before Zimbabwe consolidated.
As the halfway point of the Zimbabwe innings approached, Scotland needed a third wicket and spinner Mark Watt delivered.
He broke a 43-run partnership between wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva and skipper Craig Ervine, trapping the former LBW for 17, and the visitors reached 57-3 after 10 overs.
Ervine was then caught by Munsey off the bowling of Hairs for 24 and Scotland had Zimbabwe in a bit of bother at 58-4.
Williams and Milton Shumba then came together and put together a very important partnership, taking their side up to 95-4 after 15 overs and then taking 14 off the 16th bowled by Michael Leask.
In the next over Ali Evans got the crucial scalp of Williams, caught by Leask in the deep for 28, and Zimbabwe were 112-5 and still needing 30 runs to win.
They then needed 20 off 14 balls when Sharif bowled Ryan Burl to set up a thrilling finale.
Sharif was then in the game again in the 19th over, taking a great catch off the bowling of Chris Sole in the deep to remove Jonge.
Zimbabwe needed 14 off the last over from Sharif and he bowled Masakadza with the third ball to leave Zimbabwe 133-8 and needing nine runs from three balls.
Chatara was run out and Sharif and his team mates kept things tight to seal a seven run triumph.
“I thought the bowling and fielding today was excellent, the boys really did a great job and never allowed Zimbabwe’s batters to settle,” Berrington said after the match.
“We know that we have a varied bowling attack that can cause other teams problems and when Saffy took a wicket with the first ball of their innings it really set the tone.
“Everyone else then backed him up and it is great to get a win on home soil.
“With the bat I just tried to play my normal game and put together a couple of partnerships and we felt that 141 was a decent total – and so it proved.”
And the good news for Scotland fans after this win? Head coach Shane Burger still believes they can get a lot better.
“I was very pleased with the desire and fight the guys showed in this game when things were looking difficult for us, that team spirit is something that we have never lost throughout the lockdowns and everything else,” Burger said.
“But the good thing from my point of view is that I think that was a six or seven out of 10 performance and the guys know they can play better in game number two.
“With the bat Richie Berrington really showed his class and I thought the way we ended the first innings really gave us a good chance.
“For a number of years Safyaan Sharif has been a top performer for Scotland and he showed that again in this game, backed up excellently by the other bowlers and fielders.”
The second match of the series is at the same venue on Friday with the third encounter on Sunday.