Zimbabwe won the second match in the Wolf777 T20 Series against Scotland on Friday at The Grange in Edinburgh to level things up at 1-1 heading into Sunday’s decider.
The hosts had won game one by seven runs on Wednesday and this second instalment was also a tight, gripping affair which went to the last over as 136-5 played 126 all out.
After the match, Scotland head coach Shane Burger said: “We have to see that as a missed opportunity, we bowled and fielded well again, but being three or four wickets down early on doesn’t make it easy in any run chase.
“If you play that high risk style of cricket with the bat then that can happen sometimes though and credit to Zimbabwe for the way they bowled and fielded, some of their catches were excellent and, indeed, game changing.
“When Richie Berrington and Matthew Cross were going well and then Michael Leask came in we still had a chance of winning, but Zimbabwe held their nerve and you could see what the win meant to them at the end.
“It should be another exciting match on Sunday.”
Earlier in the day, Zimbabwe won the toss and decided to bat, but they lost their first wicket of the day off the last ball of the second over, Innocent Kaia being caught behind by wicketkeeper Matthew Cross off the bowling of Ali Evans.
It got better for Scotland three balls later when spinner Mark Watt had Regis Chakabva caught by Evans and the visitors were 18-2.
Wessley Madhevere was then run out before the end of that over and Zimbabwe really had to try and rebuild quickly.
Skipper Craig Ervine and Sean Williams did just that and while there were few fireworks, they did manage to progress the score to 91-3 in the 15th over.
In that period Calum MacLeod, known more as a batter, had sent down an over while the rest of the Scotland bowling could be described as tidy.
Wickets four and five then fell in the 15th and 16th overs, Ervine went for 30 off 36 balls – caught by skipper Kyle Coetzer off the bowling of spinner Michael Leask – and then Milton Shumba went for one.
Shumba was caught by Evans off the bowling of Gavin Main, the latter having replaced fellow seamer Chris Sole in the one change from Wednesday’s XI.
Zimbabwe were 94-5 at that stage, but they managed to rally and add another 42 runs before the innings closed with Williams on 60 not out off 52 balls and Ryan Burl on 13 not out.
While 136-5 was not the massive total Zimbabwe would have been after, it was still a defendable score on a tricky wicket and Scotland’s reply got off to a poor start despite an early George Munsey six.
Coetzer fell off the eighth ball of the innings, being caught by Kaia off the bowling of Richard Ngarava and the very next ball Oli Hairs was caught by Burl.
Ngarava’s hat-trick ball was safely negotiated by Richie Berrington, playing in his 250th match in all formats for Scotland, but Munsey fell to Tendai Chatara – caught by Kaia – for nine and the hosts were 13-3.
When MacLeod was then caught brilliantly by Burl off the bowling of Chatara for a duck, Zimbawe were on top with their opponents 16-4.
Like Ervine and Williams had needed to do in the first innings, Berrington and Cross had to rebuild for the Scots and it was 48-4 off 10 overs, the team still needing 89 off 60 balls to win.
Over 11 was fruitful for the batting team, Cross hitting a six and a four and Berrington a six in a total of 19.
By the end of the 14th over Berrington was on 42 and Cross 36 and Scotland were 91-4.
However, at the start of the 15th over Berrington fell to Sean Williams – caught by Madhevere – and 46 runs were still needed.
Cross was joined by Leask at the wicket and by the time they had 18 balls left they needed 27 runs to win.
The first ball of the 18th over saw Cross fall for 42 off Luke Jonge and Scotland’s odds of winning lengthened before a big six from Leask.
That left the home side needing 17 off 12 balls and the tension mounted when Leask was dropped by Kaia.
In the end, Scotland needed 13 off the last over, but Safyaan Sharif was caught off the first ball bowled by Wellington Masakadza, Watt was run out off the second, Leask was caught off the third ball for 24 and Evans was run out off the fourth.
Scotland finished on 126 all out to lose by 10 runs and Zimbabwe were delighted having made sure the series outcome will go to the third game.