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ESPNcricinfo Awards 2018 Associate bowling winner: Saffy cuts a swath

Scotland's one-man demolition squad almost got them their second ever win over Zimbabwe

Safyaan Sharif celebrates Hamilton Masakadza's wicket, Scotland v Zimbabwe, World Cup Qualifier 2018, Bulawayo, March 11, 2018

Sharif's five-wicket haul against Zimbabwe is also his career-best so far  •  Nigel Roddis - IDI

The previous northern summer, Scotland defeated Zimbabwe in the maiden ODI between the two sides to record their first ever victory over a Full Member. Nine months later, they had an opportunity to show they could replicate the feat on Zimbabwean soil at the World Cup Qualifier. They nearly pulled it off thanks to the efforts of Sharif. Though he had taken the match-clinching wicket in their win over Zimbabwe in Edinburgh, Sharif was left out for the second match in that series after an overall return of 1 for 69 in 8.4 overs. But he found his groove with the ball in 2018, as he showed in this game. After taking two wickets in an early spell, he came back to take three more with the old ball to finish with a career-best haul.

Key moment

Zimbabwe were 152 for 5 in the 31st over, well placed to launch a score in excess of 250, but Sharif sparked a rapid slide by claiming dangerous middle-order batsman Sean Williams for 7. Eight overs later, he pinned captain Graeme Cremer in front with a yorker before closing out the innings in the 47th by clean-bowling last man Blessing Muzarabani. The result was a score well below par for Zimbabwe, with more than three overs left unused, setting up Scotland for a thrilling chase.

The numbers

2 Number of times that Sharif had taken four or more wickets in an ODI prior to this, his maiden five-for. The first instance came on his ODI debut, against Netherlands, in 2011. It took him nearly seven years and another 31 ODIs before he could better the 4 for 27 he claimed then.
6 Number of times a bowler had taken five or more wickets in an ODI for Scotland prior to Sharif's performance against Zimbabwe. One of those six also came against Zimbabwe, by left-arm spinner Con de Lange in the famous win in Edinburgh.

What they said

"With the game constantly in the balance, it was the use of his devastating yorker which brought him three of his five wickets at moments where we needed a breakthrough. Every time I threw Saffy the ball, I could sense he was in the moment and was hunting a match-winning performance."
- Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer

The closest contenders

Mohammad Naveed, 3 for 40 v Zimbabwe, World Cup Qualifier, Harare
The UAE fast bowler broke Zimbabwean hearts in the Super Sixes by taking two wickets with the new ball before returning to take another at the death, as UAE held on to win by three runs to deny the Qualifier hosts a spot at the 2019 World Cup.
Sandeep Lamichhane, 5 for 20 v Kenya, WCL Division Two, Windhoek
The teenage legspin phenom accelerated Nepal's rise to ODI status, and simultaneously hastened Kenya's continued fall from grace, with a match-changing spell. Kenya were 65 for 0 but ended up on 139 for 8 by the time Lamichhane had his fifth. Nepal then completed a dramatic chase to win by five wickets off the final ball.

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna