Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer and vice-captain Con de Lange were yearning for divine intervention during Malcolm Waller‘s late surge that took their first-ever ODI against Zimbabwe down to the wire. Their prayers were answered when Waller, in his attempt to strike a sixth six, found Chris Sole on the deep square leg boundary – some may say literally. It ended Waller’s innings at 92 off 62 balls as Scotland prevailed by 26 runs via the DLS Method to pick up their first ODI win against a Full Member.
“When that ball was going to deep square off Waller, I was just praying for it to land inside the ropes because he hadn’t hit many inside,” Coetzer told ESPNcricinfo. “He hit them all over the rope or even out of the ground. Then, when that last one went up, just over the moon; really, really over the moon, really chuffed for the guys. You could tell by the emotions and the celebrations from the guys, we’re obviously really happy with the day.”
Waller had struck a series of sixes straight down the ground and to the east boundary, including one extraordinary cut with the wind at his back that sailed 30 yards over the point boundary, into the adjacent tennis courts. Zimbabwe entered the last three overs requiring 38 with two wickets in hand. After a lengthy chat, left-arm spinner de Lange was brought on, and Waller drove his second ball for a straight six out of the ground. But three balls later, in trying to hit one through the wind, Waller’s slog hung up in the stiff breeze for Sole to take the catch.
It was controversial as video footage appeared to indicate Sole’s foot came in contact with the boundary rope before quickly coming off. Waller initially stayed on the field while Zimbabwe’s bench protested; the umpires conferred before sticking with the call that it had been a clean catch. Waller said another six there would have made the last two overs manageable, especially with at least one needing to be bowled by a medium pacer.
“With this wind, we knew you have to target the one side where it is,” Waller said. “When they brought the spinner on in the third-last over there, I felt it was a good chance for me to bang a couple of boundaries, even though the wind was coming. I was probably looking to go straighter. I knew that if I could put the spinner under a lot of pressure and get two or three sixes in that over, they would definitely be under a lot of pressure with two seamers left. Ten an over against seamers, I think is pretty comfortable on here.”
De Lange said he felt tense at the start of the 41st over despite having already taken four wickets, and prayed for the wind to help keep the ball in play.
“It was quite nerve-wracking. I must be honest because the one that went for six, I missed the length slightly, and then that one hit the length, trying to get him to hit into the wind, and then I was just praying for the ball to come down inside the rope and it was taken,” de Lange said. “That’s why we all play cricket. That’s what you grow up as a kid dreaming towards, beating Test nations.
“Our victory is probably a result of belief that we can do really well, can compete and beat the big boys. So to win, just everyone’s emotion afterwards, as soon as that last catch was taken, that relief is a fantastic feeling.”
The controversial catch aside, Waller felt Zimbabwe had tripped themselves up early in the chase with needless run-outs on a good batting track. Hamilton Masakadza had battered Scotland in the Powerplay and looked set for a big score before he was run out, responding to a call for a tight single from Solomon Mire, in the 11th over for 38. It ended the opening partnership at 55.
“We’ve been following a couple of games that have been played here, and obviously they have been high-scoring,” Waller said. “So we knew it is a decent batting track, and I think on average, guys are looking at 280-290. So when they posted that score, we were confident and felt if we had wickets in hand and had a good start up front that we’d be able to chase it down or get close to it towards the end.
“When you’re chasing a big score like that, you don’t want run-outs. You’re going to get run-outs in games, but it’s crucial not to lose your wickets like that. I think we got off to a really good start with Hamilton and Mire, and we were definitely going along and putting them under pressure. But then just silly run-outs definitely put a damper, and then a couple of quick wickets after that definitely holds you back when you have to go at six-seven an over.”
Over the course of the day, Scotland had been the side to hold their nerve under pressure. They were tested at the start, where they were limited to four runs off the first four overs. But Coetzer, who was composed to begin with, unleashed his array of drives and cuts later in the Powerplay en route to his fourth ODI ton that set up a defendable total. Coetzer hoped that the win, Scotland’s first in ODIs over a Full Member after 23 losses, will influence other Full Members to schedule fixtures against them.
“I hope it will prove and put a case forward to giving us more opportunities, and this is what we’ve been waiting to do for a little while,” Coetzer said. “We’ve taken a little bit longer than other teams have, but we’ve now got a strong squad of players and we hope that we could still keep on challenging and maybe play some of the other Test-ranked teams. It’s definitely made a statement today.”
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo’s USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna
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