Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE and Scotland clash in a crucial ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in what promises to be a thriller at Queens Sports Club this morning.
Zimbabwe and Scotland are through to the Super Six stage of the 10-team competition, but a crucial two points are at stake when the two teams collide today.
With Afghanistan likely failing to progress to the next round of the competition should Hong Kong beat Nepal at Bulawayo Athletic Club, whoever wins the contest between Zimbabwe and Scotland will head into the Super Six with an advantage.
Only points picked up from the teams that make it to the Super Six are carried over to that stage. This means Zimbabwe and Scotland might not take forward the four points they got from the wins over Afghanistan as well as Nepal.
Zimbabwe top Group B with six points, the same as Scotland, but the Chevrons have a superior net run rate.
Looking at how the two teams have played so far in the tournament makes it hard to predict how today’s encounter will pan out. Even previous results cannot offer any solution because the two teams shared a series when Zimbabwe toured Scotland in June last year.
Chevrons skipper Graeme Cremer said there won’t be any change in approach from his team since they head into every game the same way they look at others they played so far in the tournament. He said they are mindful of the fact that the Scots have been playing some decent cricket, which means they are busy plotting the downfall of the host nation.
“Every game is a big game for us in this tournament; no game is going to be different, we won’t take any game lightly. They have been playing decent cricket, we are mindful of that and we have been playing well also. I am sure they will be thinking about that and want to plan against our guys,” Cremer said.
Scotland captain Kyle Coezter refused to accept the underdog tag since they have previously beaten all teams in the tournament except West Indies. He believes they can go all the way in the Qualifier.
“We don’t believe that we are the underdogs in as much as others may believe so. We have beaten every team in this competition barring the West Indies.
We know that we are capable of going far in this competition, but we have to take it one day at a time. Obviously the Zimbabwe game is going to be key to the next stage,” Coetzer said.
One thing Zimbabwe have that Scotland lack is the multitude of fans. In all Zimbabwe’s three matches, Queens Sports Club was packed and this is what prompted the ICC to move the venue of today’s match from Bulawayo Athletic Club to the home of cricket in the city.
Fans are expected to throng Queens Sports Club to watch Zimbabwe playing their last match in Bulawayo before heading to Harare.
“Our fans have been excellent and have spurred us on. It must be horrible for the other team because when we lose a wicket the crowd goes quiet, but when we are out there on the field it really pushes us on. They turn up and I am sure they will again on Monday, but we are happy we have given them three wins and hopefully another one on Monday,’’ Cremer said.
Brendan Taylor is the tournament’s highest scorer with 235 runs and he is the man Zimbabwe will be banking on to deliver with the bat together with Cephas Zhuwao, Solomon Mire, Hamilton Masakadza, Sikandar Raza, Craig Ervine and Sean Williams.
Raza has proven to be a great asset for the Chevrons, as his off-spin bowling has made him the joint leading wicket taker with Mujeeb Ur Rahman of Afghanistan with nine wickets in Group B.
Slow bowlers have been terrific for Zimbabwe, with Cremer and Williams also expected to play a huge part in today’s game. Seamers Kyle Jarvis, Blessing Muzarabani and Tendai Chatara will lead the frontline.
For Scotland, Calum MacLeod has the highest individual score of the tournament with his unbeaten 157 against Afghanistan. Skipper Coezter made an unbeaten 88 in the win over Nepal. The two should hold together their team’s batting order as the Scots look to finish on top in Group B. — @Mdawini_29