NZ v PAK (W) (1)
IND v AUS (1)
WI v ENG (1)
Abu Dhabi T10 (6)
Legends League (2)
WBBL 2023 (1)
BAN v NZ (1)
SA v BAN (W) (1)
IND v ENG (W-A) (1)
Hazare Trophy (18)
This report has been made possible by the Scottish Cricket Supporters, who gave me a lift to the Harare South Country Club ground when I was unable to get petrol during the current fuel crisis. Thanks very much to them all.
It was a most interesting match in which the balance swung unexpectedly from one side to the other, before Zimbabwe A finally gained their first victory of the tournament by 8 runs. Zimbabwe A recovered well after being seriously tied down by accurate bowling, while Scotland made a gallant challenge for victory after defeat seemed inevitable. Craig Evans was one of the changes to the Zimbabwean team, which was noticeably quieter on the field and well led by Gavin Rennie in a pleasant atmosphere.
Scotland put Zimbabwe A in to bat on winning the toss on a warm, generally sunny morning. The pitch was good but the outfield thick, making run-scoring rather difficult. After Darlington Matambanadzo played out a maiden over from James Brinkley, Mark Vermeulen got off the mark with an exquisitely timed square cut for four off Craig Wright, but it was to be his only scoring stroke. With the total on 7, he was beaten and bowled by Brinkley, with a ball that straightened and had him playing down the wrong line.
Matambanadzo, as often, settled in slowly and kept finding the fielders, as did his new partner Neil Ferreira. After showing some signs of frustration, Matambanadzo finally managed to get two drives away for three, but accurate bowling frustrated them as they tried to work the ball around for ones and twos. The score was only 45 in the 18th over when Ferreira called for a risky single on the leg side, Matambanadzo was late in rejecting the call, and Ferreira was run out for 9, Douglas Lockhart running in to field from midwicket.
Gavin Rennie came close to being run out as he got off the mark with a similarly risky single. Matambanadzo, several times stepping down the pitch to try to force away the bowling, worked hard and reached a well-deserved fifty, mainly through drives, edges and some rather risky singles. He was eventually run out for 62, responding late to a risky call by Rennie, giving the bowler Drew Parsons time to throw down the stumps. The score was now 117 for three, and Matambanadzo later paid tribute to the highly disciplined and accurate bowling that made it so hard to score.
Rennie did not last much longer; forced to take risks to improve the run rate, he skyed a catch off Brinkley to captain George Salmond at mid-off. The score was 129 for four in the 36th over. This left two new batsmen, Greg Lamb and Dion Ebrahim, to boost a disappointing scoring rate, and this they did with some fine running between wickets Ebrahim in particular nipping back and forth like lightning. So enterprisingly did they bat that the bowling lost some of its accuracy, and at one point Craig McKellar earned a round of applause from his teammates for bowling a rare dot ball.
200 looked a possibility or the first time, but the boundary was hard to reach, apart from a sweep by Ebrahim. Finally a swing to the long-leg boundary off the final ball of the innings took the total to 205 for four wickets, Lamb on 40 and Ebrahim 36. The pair had added 76 runs in just under 13 overs and given their team a decided advantage.
Lockhart and Neil McRae opened steadily for Scotland, waiting for the bad ball to punish, and put on 28 together before the latter snicked a catch to first slip Vermeulen off Everton Matambanadzo for 12. Ayaz Gul was almost immediately dropped, a hard chance to the keeper off 'Pommie' Mbangwa, and then settled down with Lockhart to take the scored through to 60. Lockhart opened his shoulders and swung Andre Hoffman almost for six over long-on, but soon after stepped down the pitch to drive Ian Engelbrecht and was smartly stumped by Ferreira for 26. Soon afterwards Gul (20) played a half-hearted drive against Paul Strang, yet another introduction into this team, and lobbed a low catch towards backward point, where it was caught by Hoffman diving low. At 68 for three, in the 25th over, Scotland were in some difficulty.
Drew Parsons reacted to the situation with attack, twice pulling Engelbrecht fiercely to square leg, the second shot to be superbly saved by Everton Matambanadzo. Briefly the pair threatened to take charge, but then captain George Salmond (6) hammered Rennie at about knee-height to Mbangwa at deepish mid-on and departed for his first failure of the tour; 85 for four.
New batsman Colin Smith immediately unleashed a ferocious off-drive for four, but then the aggressive Parsons, sweeping at Rennie, was adjudged lbw on the front foot for 17. At 92 for five, Scotland's chances of victory now appeared very slim. The middle order did not give up, with Smith and Wright batting usefully together until the latter, as non-striker, called for a quick leg-bye, a risky call to which Smith (13) was late in responding, giving time for Ferreira to throw the ball to the bowler Rennie for an easy run-out. Then Wright (19) swatted Strang to midwicket where Vermeulen nonchalantly reached down to pluck an ankle-high catch. At 123 for seven all seemed lost.
Brinkley and Gregor Maiden was also resolved to go on fighting, although the required scoring rate steadily rose to about eight an over. They enjoyed a few snicks and had a few lusty blows, until Maiden (13) swung Rennie round the corner for Darlington Matambanadzo to grasp the ball low down. He appeared either to lose control or toss the ball away immediately in celebration, but the batsman walked and Scotland were 143 for eight.
Then, as the pace bowlers returned, Brinkley launched a powerful assault with some clean, straight hitting. He alone of the batsmen in the match seemed able to reach the boundary, and with two overs to go Scotland were still in with a chance, 21 needed. Brinkley hit Everton Matambanadzo wide of long-on for four, then took a single into the covers. Cox took one to the left of midwicket, then Brinkley hit to midwicket, took two to long-on and then a single from a difficult chance to Ebrahim at long-off.
Mbangwa was to bowl the last over with 12 needed for victory. Brinkley took one to mid-on, then Cox swung and missed. Brinkley charged down the pitch, backing up for a single, while Ferreira threw the ball towards the bowler's end aiming for a run-out. Brinkley, seeing it coming, stopped it with his foot, deliberately and hoping he would get away with it as he later good-naturedly admitted, and was given out 'obstructing the field'. He scored 54 off 47 balls, with 5 fours. This effectively ended Scotland's gallant challenge, Cox and McKellar taking a single apiece before Cox (3) skyed a simple return catch - all out 197.
Both teams shook hands with smiles all round in true sporting spirit at the end of a fine match, and both presented gifts to each other. This is all in the true spirit of the game, which was sadly lacking from the match against Holland.