Only a win will do!

—Winners of the high-stakes game between the West Indies and Scotland today will seal their spot at the 2019 edition of the marquee 50-over tournament.

Rovman Powell, left and Evin Lewis after net sessions yesterday as they prepare to face Scotland today in another must win encounter. (Photo courtesy Cricket West Indies)

(ICC) The ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 has thrown up some mouth-watering clashes and it has come down to a situation where even with only four Super Sixes games left, five teams are still in the fray for those top-two spots that will give them tickets to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.

That could all change when Scotland and Windies clash at Harare Sports Club today.

The equation is pretty simple for both sides: Win the game and go to the United Kingdom.

Windies came into the Super Sixes with four points, but lost to Afghanistan before beating Zimbabwe, and are at the top of the table with six points. Zimbabwe and Scotland are both on five points. And all teams have just one game left.

Scotland, the champions at the qualifiers prior to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, have been clinical throughout the tournament. But the 25-run loss to Ireland has set them back slightly. Windies, on the other hand, have been unpredictable, but the four-wicket win against Zimbabwe is bound to have lifted their spirits.

Windies have found the men to score the runs pretty much in every game, and that was on display again when they crossed Zimbabwe’s 289 in 49 overs. Evin Lewis, Shai Hope and Marlon Samuels all cracked half-centuries in that match, one that Windies had to win to keep their dreams alive.

All their top-order batsmen have scored at least one half-century in the tournament, which will augur well for them considering the bowling riches Scotland boast of. The only concern is the form of Chris Gayle. The hard-hitting opener started out with a 91-ball 123 against UAE, but hasn’t managed much of substance since.

The bowling has been impressive, with Jason Holder leading the pack with 14 wickets so far in the tournament. In the previous outing against Zimbabwe as well, the Windies captain picked up 4/35, which included the core of the Zimbabwe top order. Kemar Roach has also been consistent, as has been the case with Keemo Paul since he came in as Sheldon Cottrell’s replacement.

Scotland’s bowling, bar the last game against Ireland when they conceded 271/9, has been top notch. Even in that game, the bowlers did well to pull back things in the end after Ireland looked set to cross the 300-run mark at one stage.

Safyaan Sharif has picked up 14 wickets, while Brad Wheal has nine, and the other bowlers have also chipped in along the way. In the batting department, Kyle Coetzer, Calum MacLeod and Matthew Cross have all had at least one good outing. If there is a worry, it’s that the lower middle-order hasn’t been tested much.

If Windies beat Scotland, they are through. Even if they lose, they can still squeeze through if UAE beat Zimbabwe in their final game. It’s similar for Scotland, though a loss will make things tough for them as Zimbabwe have a superior net run rate. And, of course, it all gets very tricky indeed if Ireland and/or Afghanistan win their remaining games.

The simpler option is to stay away from the math and just win today.

Coetzer, the Scotland captain has been around for a long time and has led his side effectively over the years. After an indifferent start to the qualifiers, Coetzer has provided Scotland with good starts, as 186 runs from five innings suggest. With Cross, MacLeod and Richie Berrington around to build add to the good work, Coetzer must do it one more time, set the platform for the others to tee off from.

Holder, the Windies skipper has led by example with both bat and ball. He has so far picked up 14 wickets and scored 207 runs, most of it coming when his team has needed the runs desperately. In all the games, Holder has provided his side with something or the other and will look to do it in perhaps the most important game of them all.

The temperature is expected to hover in the mid-20s with a bit of cloud around, though there is no major threat of rain. The surface is expected to be good for batting, though spin might come into play as the day progresses.


Scotland: Kyle Coetzer (c), Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross, Alasdair Evans, Michael Jones, Michael Leask, Calum MacLeod, George Munsey, Safyaan Sharif, Chris Sole, Tom Sole, Craig Wallace (wk), Mark Watt, Brad Wheal, Stuart Whittingham

Windies: Jason Holder (c), Jason Mohammed, Devendra Bishoo, Carlos Brathwaite, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope (wk), Evin Lewis, Nikita Miller, Ashley Nurse, Keemo Paul, Rovman Powell, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Kesrick Williams

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