Hobart – Zimbabwe captain Craig Ervine played a mature hand as his side eased past Scotland’s modest total by five wickets in the make-or-break T20 World Cup Group B match to qualify for the Super 12 of the competition for the first time in Hobart on Friday.
Both teams came into the winner-takes-all clash with a victory each to their name, knowing too that whoever came out on top would progress at the other’s expense.
Ultimately, it was Ervine who took the game by the scruff of the neck, guiding his country to complete a modest run-chase to finish on 133 for five in 18, 3 overs while chasing Scotland’s total of 132 for six.
Ervine was helped by Sikandar Raza who smashed 40 from 23 balls as he was the only batter in the game who was able to consistently time the ball.
Zimbabwe make progress in a T20 World Cup for the first time. By finishing top of Group B, they advance to Group Two of the Super 12s where they will face India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa and the Netherlands.
Ireland also advance from Group B, having beaten West Indies by nine wickets earlier on Friday.
Despite winning the toss and electing to bat, Scotland struggled to ever get going: George Munsey made 54 off 51 balls to hold the innings together, but he never found his timing and eventually chipped down the throat of Milton Shumba at deep square leg.
Munsey had seen Michael Jones and Matt Cross fall in the powerplay, the former caught well by Raza over his shoulder at cover, the latter by the diving Wessly Madhevere.
Richie Berrington was boundaryless for 13, before his dismissal in the 10th over brought Calum Macleod to the crease. He toiled for 25 but managed to hit just a single four in 26 deliveries, eventually caught at cover as he looked to pierce the field in search of a late charge. But that never came, despite Michael Leask’s brief cameo where he came out swinging.
In a brief interview at the interval, Munsey pointed to a lack of match practice under lights and also praised Zimbabwe’s bowling; Tendai Chatara’s second over was a maiden and his first accounted for Jones, while he and Richard Ngarava both found plenty of swing to work with.
Ryan Burl’s leg-spin wasn’t called on but Raza had Berrington caught in a miserly four-over spell of off-spin, with Blessing Muzarabani not quite at his best and the most expensive of Zimbabwe’s attack.
Regis Chakabva was trapped in front by the third ball of Zimbabwe’s reply and Madhevere dragged on without scoring, but Ervine was a constant, even when Sean Williams clipped a drag-down from Leask to deep square leg.
That brought Raza to the crease, and the allrounder – one of the T20I cricketers of the year – pulled one six over the legside and carved another extra cover to take the wind from Scotland’s sails. He gloved behind for 40 off 23 balls to give Josh Davey his second wicket and Ervine was caught at mid-off for 58, but the damage had been done as Zimbabwe – at their first World Cup since 2016 – progressed at the Scots’ expense, winning the group in the process.