Scotland look to capitalise on rare Full Member series
June 15, 2017
Start time 10:45 local (09:45 GMT)
March 14, 2015. That's the last time Scotland had an opportunity to play a Full Member in an ODI. That day, in Hobart, they came across the World Cup hosts Australia, who were on their way to storming to a fifth title.
The scarcity of Full Member v Associate scheduling outside of World Cups has been a recurring theme over the years, further cemented in recent times by the inclusion of just two Associates - Ireland and Afghanistan - on the current 2019 World Cup 12-team qualification rankings table. Despite having ODI status, Scotland's exclusion from that table is a great impediment to facilitating matches unless a Full Member desperate for game time is willing to throw them a bone.
But that's exactly the situation Zimbabwe find themselves in at the moment. The last time they played a fellow Full Member was in November for an ODI tri-series against West Indies and Sri Lanka. Unable to qualify for the Champions Trophy and with no Full-Member fixtures on their plate until a tour of Sri Lanka in July, they've followed the lead of West Indies in soliciting offers for competition from the ICC's second-tier members in the first half of 2017.
The first one was taken up by Afghanistan, who toured Harare for a five-match ODI series in February. Next came Namibia and Canada, whose lack of ODI status meant that a Zimbabwe A side in name only - the majority of first-choice Zimbabwe players suited up - took on the two nations in four 50-over matches apiece in April and May.
Now Zimbabwe has taken their Associate scheduling spree to Europe. While the ICC's showpiece men's tournament is conducting its knockout stage in England and Wales, Zimbabwe will be a few hours further north in the United Kingdom, taking on their keen hosts in the first of two ODIs. On paper, these matches are part of Zimbabwe's final preparation - which also includes three one-dayers across the North Sea in the Netherlands - ahead of their Sri Lanka tour, which will include one Test and five ODIs.
For Scotland, it's an opportunity to show that their seven-wicket trouncing of Sri Lanka in an unofficial one-dayer less than a month ago in Kent was no fluke. This is the first time Scotland and Zimbabwe will play each other in an ODI and the hosts may draw inspiration from fellow Associate Afghanistan's win in their maiden ODI against West Indies last Friday, not to mention Afghanistan's multiple series wins over Zimbabwe in the last two years.
Scotland: LLWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Since taking over the captaincy reins once again in January, Kyle Coetzer has been a man on a mission. In Scotland's first ODI of the year against Hong Kong, he passed Gavin Hamilton to become the country's all-time leading scorer in ODIs. His 118 off 84 balls on May 21 against Sri Lanka came as part of a 201-run opening stand that floored the tourists. Coetzer's red-hot form has held up in June with another century against Namibia at the Grange on Tuesday and he scored a century in an ODI against UAE on the same ground last summer too, showing his appetite for runs is extremely strong at the Edinburgh venue.
Sean Williams starred in Zimbabwe A's recent series against Canada, scoring an unbeaten 114 on May 18. Though these sides have never played an ODI against each other, they have come up against each other twice in the ICC World Twenty20. Williams scored a key half-century in the most recent contest at Nagpur in 2016 as Zimbabwe held off Scotland by 11 runs.
George Munsey scored his maiden first-class hundred in the Intercontinental Cup and is a regular in Scotland's T20 side but was left out of the two WCL Championship matches against Namibia. Scotland has had a very stable side in one-day cricket and most likely will stick with the same XI they played both times against Namibia but he gives them something to ponder after Tuesday's loss, especially if the pitch is not expected to offer much turn thereby influencing Mark Watt's place as a second specialist spinner.
Scotland (probable): 1 Kyle Coetzer (capt), 2 Matthew Cross (wk), 3 Calum MacLeod, 4 Richie Berrington, 5 Preston Mommsen, 6 Craig Wallace, 7 Con de Lange, 8 George Munsey/Mark Watt, 9 Safyaan Sharif, 10 Alasdair Evans, 11 Chris Sole.
Zimbabwe struggled in the batting department in their last official ODI series against Afghanistan, the nadir a 54-all-out performance in the series-deciding contest. Hamilton Masakadza only played one match in that series but is back for the Scotland series to help ease the burden on the middle order. Ryan Burl struggled against Afghanistan but may get another chance after striking 151 in his last first-class match.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 PJ Moor (wk), 2 Solomon Mire, 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Craig Ervine, 5 Sean Williams, 6 Ryan Burl, 7 Malcolm Waller, 8 Graeme Cremer (capt), 9 Tendai Chatara, 10 Chris Mpofu, 11 Richard Ngarava
Pitch and conditions
The Grange is a traditionally high-scoring ground despite medium-sized boundaries thanks to a typically flat wicket. Coetzer and Richie Berrington have each scored centuries at the ground earlier this week. The main obstacle to stemming the flow of runs is the weather, with a 60% chance of intermittent rain beginning at noon.
Stats and trivia
- This is the first home ODI for Scotland against a Full Member since May 9, 2014 when they lost to England by 39 runs in a match that was reduced to 20 overs a side due to rain.
- Not including Zimbabwe's trips to Sharjah to play Afghanistan, this is the first true away series for Zimbabwe against an Associate since they toured Kenya for five ODIs in 2009, a series Zimbabwe won 5-0.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna